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Rain drowns plans for season opening games

POSTED: August 9, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Jakayla Sullivan makes a play at third base during summer leage softball. Sullivan was one of a few players hoping to make their debut as varsity starters at Walnut Grove.

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Both the Lady Diamond Doggs of Winder-Barrow High School and the Lady Wildcats of Apalachee High School were supposed to be partaking of some softball action Friday night. 

They were supposed to, but Mother Nature had other plans.

This weekend’s strong showers and occasional storms halted both school’s plans and held the teams off until a later date.

“It’s a non-region game. We have another non-region game on Monday against a good opponent,” said Winder-Barrow softball coach Monty McClure, who is entering his fifth year as the Lady Doggs’ head coach and his sixth year overall with the program.

Winder’s season opener has been pushed to Monday when the Lady Doggs will host Jefferson as originally scheduled, weather permitting, of course.

They will make up Friday’s postponed game on Monday, Sep. 29, making it the last regular season game instead of the first regular season game. The JV game that was scheduled for Friday will not be made up at that time.

Apalachee’s Lady Cats get a reprieve until Wednesday when they travel to Flowery Branch for their first game in a local tournament. The Wednesday match-up comes against former Apalachee coach Mike Cavey’s Archer team.

 Coach Matt Allen at Apalachee hoped to get his team’s first action in before then, but now they have little choice but to face Archer without the warm-up experience they’d hoped for the scrimmage to offer.

Since Friday’s event was a scrimmage, there are not currently plans to make it up.

The story is slightly different on Winder’s side of town as the Lady Doggs were able to enjoy a scrimmage against Norcross Wednesday afternoon serving as a warm-up for their scheduled regular season opener against Walnut Grove Friday night. 

The Lady Doggs took a 6-1 deficit early while both squads featured their varsity players heavily, but they were able to climb back later in the game to eventually take an 11-6 victory. Norcross struggled under their second pitcher and allowed Winder’s combined efforts of starters and bench players to get back in and seal the game.

“They jumped on us first with a home run in the first inning,” McClure mentioned, adding that his team tied the score 1-1 in the second inning. “In the fourth, we threw it around a little and next thing you know it’s 6-1. We got our wits about us and came back in and scored three more, and we actually gave some outs away with base running mistakes.

“In the scrimmage games, you try different things and we tried some situational things. Of course you want to win, but it was more of a practice scrimmage situation,” McClure added. “We had live pitching, which was great. I’m glad we were able to get the rust knocked off of us.”

After their tenacity in the scrimmage game, McClure had hoped to see his team break out Friday night under the lights against a talented Walnut Grove program, but instead they will have to wait until Monday’s hosted contest against Jefferson.

“We played a scrimmage Wednesday against Norcross, so that helped, and we get a game Monday before we hit the region. We’ll be ready. There’ll be no excuses,” McClure emphasized.

Winder-Barrow’s roster features ample returning talent from last season with a number of players promoted to starter or varsity status to fill gaps left by graduating seniors. 

Although the final varsity roster has been set in stone for the most part, McClure did acknowledge that his line-up would be subject to change for the first few weeks as the team tried out some new configurations here and there.

“We try different combinations for the first week or two to figure that out, but most of the positions are locked up. Most of the batting order is locked up. We’re going to try a few different things in the tournament next week,” McClure previewed.

The Lady Doggs will have experience in the leadoff position with McKenzy MacFarland taking the plate first while playing center field at least as far as Monday night is concerned. Emily Ferguson takes the plate second out of left field, followed by Carlee Thurmond who will resume the catcher’s position and bat third. 

Another veteran, Cathleen Nugue, will bat fourth and will feature prominently on the mound where she is expected to fill a crucial need for the Lady Diamond Doggs.

Another newcomer, Jakayla Sullivan, will bat fifth and take the field at third base. Sullivan was one of the many underclassmen who spent some impressive innings working with the team during summer ball.

Sullivan will be followed in the lineup by Ansley Johnson. Johnson, who is slated to play short stop for Winder-Barrow, took a repeat injury to her knee during summer ball and nearly had to sit out part of the season. Fortunately for both Johnson and for Winder-Barrow softball, she seems to be on the right path now.

“She’s fully healed and fully released by the doctors, so we were happy about that,” McClure stated. 

The final few spots on the lineup are more fluid at the moment than the top portion at present, although McClure was able to offer some answers. Haley Evans will probably fill the designated player spot hitting seventh. TK Sauls, one of two freshman starters from last season along with Nugue, will continue to play second base as a sophomore while hitting eighth. 

Krista Thomason will play right field while batting ninth while Alexis Berry at first base will be the flex player.

“We’re going to be more athletic. We have some speed and we bunt well,” McClure noted. “These new girls are good players, it’s just about experience playing varsity. They get nervous. I think it means more to them than travel ball tournaments unless you make nationals.

“There’s just pride on the line. They don’t want to look bad in front of their hometown crowd,” McClure added. “They’ll get that out of the way, and they played great this summer.”

A couple of the young ladies have been asked to fill some big shoes, including Emily Ferguson who will be filling in for one of last season’s emotional and statistical leaders.

“Replacing Erin Harbin will be tough. Emily Ferguson’s got that job right now and I thought she did a great job this summer,” McClure mentioned.

Some of Harbin’s equally stellar teammates will be back, though, and they look to provide some of the leadership that Harbin brought to the game in her absence.

“We get our first batter back and our third and fourth batter back,” McClure said of having MacFarland, Thurmond and Nugue back in their traditional spots in the lineup. 

Winder-Barrow fast-pitch softball is entering its 15th season in the 2014-15 academic year, matching up with Apalachee’s 15 years. 

The Lady Doggs and the Lady Wildcats will play at Flowery Branch in the second half of the week, although the two teams are not scheduled to meet. After Winder’s game hosting Jefferson on Monday, they will face Mountain View and Dacula in a 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. double-header Wednesday evening at Flowery Branch before seeing Region 7-A’s First Presbyterian Day School Friday evening at the Branch.

Apalachee will see Archer on Wednesday, but they will get a chance to measure up against their first common opponent with Winder when they play Dacula Friday night. 

Apalachee’s first home game of the year will be a non-region exhibition game against Winder-Barrow on Aug. 19.



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