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SEB, Barnwell gunning for region title
Jackets open at home with Statesboro
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    BROOKLET — After coming in second in Region 3-AA behind Screven County in 2006 and making a run in the state playoffs, the Southeast Bulloch Lady Yellow Jackets have their sights set squarely on a 2007 region softball championship.
    “Anything less would be a disappointment,” said Jacket coach Aimee Civalier. “As long as we stay healthy and play like we should, that’s our goal. To be region champs.”
    Finishing 13-1 in their region last year, the Jackets are aiming for the top. Returning a large cast of contributors from the ’06 squad, SEB has an experienced lineup — led by pitcher Megan Barnwell — that lost only two seniors from the previous squad. The entire outfield returns all of the ’06 starters, and the experience of the team as a whole should help tighten up the defense.
    Barnwell won 22 games from the mound last season, and if there was a weakness for Southeast Bulloch, it was on the offensive side of the ball.
    “We had an inter-squad scrimmage last week and we scored a lot of runs in that,” said Civalier. “The starting lineup, hitting off of Megan, scored eight to 10 runs, and I was really pleased with that. I feel like we are going to do a lot better this time around.”
    Having such a strong pitching staff, said Civalier, will help improve the bats of the Lady Jackets.
    Conditioning also came into play as a weakness in the final stretch of the ’06 season, and due to the construction at the school, it has been tough on the SEB coaching staff to push the team as much as it would like.
    The new gym has not been completed on the Southeast Bulloch campus, so the Jackets cannot get inside for workouts, and there are strict rules that limit the amount of conditioning allowed in the intense south-Georgia heat. That hasn’t stopped SEB from hitting the practice field hard.
    “We all agreed,” Civalier said, “that the girls that were ahead of us were bigger, faster, stronger then us. We’ve worked harder on conditioning over the summer, and we’re still doing it here.”
    The Jackets are getting a late start to the 2007 season — most teams started play last week — but after a scrimmage against Statesboro a few weeks ago and some intense practice sessions leading up to today’s opener, SEB feels ready. It opens the season today in Brooklet against the Blue Devils (0-2) at 5 p.m.
    Region play begins as the Jackets travel to Metter on Thursday for a 5 p.m. game followed by the “Battle in the ’Boro” tournament on Friday and Saturday at Mill Creek.

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.