Northwest Whitfield High School’s softball team wrote the perfect ending to its 2012 season, winning the Class 4A state title in a dramatic extra-inning victory against Madison County.
But like everyone else, it’s time for the Lady Bruins to work on a new beginning — and they’ll do so without ace Emily Boyd, The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Softball Player of the Year the past four seasons, who has moved on to pitch for the University of Mississippi.
Dalton, Murray County and Southeast Whitfield were all scheduled to open their seasons Thursday at Model’s Lady Blue Devil Invitational — tournament organizers got special permission from the Georgia High School Association to begin play a day before the GHSA’s “official” earliest date for competition — and the rest of the area’s teams will all have begun play by early next week.
Here’s a glance at the varsity programs in Murray and Whitfield counties:
The Lady Lions start the season needing more wins and more players.
During its first season of GHSA competition, Christian Heritage went 6-17 overall and 4-6 in Sub-region 6A-A and missed the state playoffs. And just like last year, coach Mike Leonard’s team will be forced to improve on those numbers with a thin bench.
“Right now, we only have nine healthy bodies,” Leonard said earlier this week. “We have a really, really good core of freshmen coming in and we have five or six strong eighth-graders for next year, but that doesn’t help a lot right now. School isn’t open yet, so it makes it a little hard, but we are going to have to pick up a couple of players.”
First baseman Megan McKinney is the lone senior on the team, which has five freshmen on the roster. The team has just one junior, Micah Kilgore, and Leonard said McKinney will have to fill the leadership vacuum created by the graduation of the coach’s daughter, Rebecca Leonard, a member of The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Softball Team last year who signed with Samford.
In addition to her leadership contributions, there were plenty of statistical ones — she led the team in batting average (.426), on-base percentage (.576) and was also the winning pitcher in all six of the team’s wins.
“(McKinney) is going to have to be a leader because we are so young,” Leonard said. “I don’t think that they will come into this as freshmen and be intimidated, but they need a leader. She is going to have to step up and be a little more vocal. We know she will bring a great attitude, and we hope that will show for the team.”
With the low numbers and no depth at catcher — Haley Jones moved from her natural position at third base to behind the plate — the Lady Lions will have to play a little different style of ball.