The Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets had many games cancelled last year due to COVID but still managed to piece together a schedule to go 19-10 and advanced to the state playoffs for the 12 th time in the last 15 years and were knocked out in the State 3-A Elite-8 by Rockmart in a hard fought three-game series.
This year Coach Amy Civalier will be looking to fill the shoes from a couple of key starters as well as a couple players who decided not to play softball this season.
The good news for Civalier is she returns former Class-AAA pitcher of the year Alana Barnard for her senior season, as well as All-State selection Delanie Thames who missed her sophomore year after having shoulder surgery.
“Getting Delanie back is huge as she is a difference maker both at the plate and in the field,” said Civalier. “We lost some key players from last year and only have one senior. Having Alana on the mound we know we are going to be in most every game as she is a difference maker on the mound.”
Thames was named to the All-State first team as a freshman but tore her labrum in the off-season and had to sit out last season where she served as the team’s head cheerleader in the dugout. Wednesday Thames played her first game at catcher after playing primarily shortstop since returning from her injury.
“She showed her leadership last year even though she didn’t play a single game,” said Civalier. “Having her back behind the plate will be huge for us. She and Alaina work so well together and if teams try and play small ball against us, she can handle bunts well and can throw runners out trying to steal as well. As far as offensively she has power and speed and definitely knows how to drive runners' home.”
Barnard was named the Class AAA pitcher of the year her sophomore season and followed that up with a first team All-State selection last year as she posted a 0.59 ERA with 168 strikeouts in 118 innings in 2020 as well as a 0.76 ERA and 58 strikeouts in the postseason.
“Alana has really worked hard from the end of last season till this season on spinning the ball a little more and working on her changeup,” said Civalier. “It’s definitely different your senior year as you realize this is it. Players usually put a little more into their senior year and I can see that with Alana.”
The Jackets once again have scheduled a strong non-region schedule to help them prepare for the state tournament knowing how weak their region typically is.
“Our non-region schedule is very competitive,” said Civalier. “We have picked up some very solid teams to play against in tournament as well as throughout the year. I feel good about the strength of schedule, and we hope we can learn from game to game and just continue to improve.”
“Overall, I feel like we are strongest with our offense and at pitcher and catcher,” said Civalier. “We have a young team, and it will take us some time to get to get those young girls some experience. Hopefully we can continue to get better through the year and be ready to make another state playoff run.”
The Jackets open the regular season Aug. 5 at Pinewood.