Poll on target
The most recent Class A coaches poll from Georgia PrepCountry.com has defending Class A champ Gordon Lee at No. 1 and Bryan County at No. 2. Which means Thursday's noon matchup could well include the team that will win the 2011 title.
Here's the poll (teams in state finals in bold:
1. Gordon Lee 33-1
2. Bryan County 30-7
3. Mount Pisgah 23-4
4. Hebron Christian 19-6
5. Bacon County 25-6
6. First Presbyterian 19-8
7. Bowdon 21-14
8. George Walton 20-7-1
9. Savannah Christian
10. Johnson County 20-6
Know your opponent
First, a little history. Gordon Lee has played fast-pitch softball for 14 years, acording to Rome-based PrepCentralOnline. The team has advanced to the state finals in Columbus in all but one of those seasons.
Since 2002, the Lady Trojans have placed third or better every season and won it all in 2004 and again last season.
That year, Gordon Lee became the first team in Georgia High School Association fast pitch history to go unbeaten - they finished 38-0.
Leaders: The Lady Trojans feature last year's top pitcher in Class A, Brenna Nation. Nation, a senior, is 20-0 this fall while junior Kalei Kimbrell is 13-1. What's more, the Lady Trojans are hitting better than .350 as a team, according to various online sources.
- Staff report
Led by Auburn-bound Tiffany Howard, the Lady Redskins went 30-7 this fall and swept both Pacelli and Miller County to advance to the Class A finals, the team's fourth appearance in the last five seasons.
Howard, named Class A player of the year in 2010, does it all for BCHS. As a hitter, she's batting a team-high .663 with three home runs - including a solo shot in the Lady Redskins' 4-2 win over Pacelli in the first round of the state playoffs --and only struck out four times in 113 at bat.
Howard also has more than 60 stolen bases and is a threat to steal every time she gets on base.
As a pitcher, Howard is 27-6. She struck out 243 in 174 1/3 innings and has an ERA of 1.53.
But she's not the only reason the Lady Redskins are back where they're used to being.
Center fielder Sierra Newman, a senior, is hitting .339 and has scored 38 runs while defensively she anchors the outfield. Junior third baseman Taylor Butler is hitting .447 and leads the Lady Redskins with 51 RBI. She's also smacked two home runs, including a two-run shot in the first-inning of Bryan County's 2-1 win over Miller County in round two of the state playoffs.
As a team, the Lady Redskins hit .340. The veteran lineup includes second baseman Jerri Hines, outfielder Rebecca Strickland, catcher Jenna Schuman, and outfielder and backup pitcher Alana Walker, who went 3-1 in relief of Howard this fall. Shortstop McKenzie Covington and outfielder Sierra Cornell are also key to the Lady Redskins' title hopes.
Bryan County also gets solid play and depth from Macy Newman Amber Neagley, Stacy Turner, Kaylee Perks, Mindy Myers, Paige Shuman and Seniorita Ivey.
This and that: Bryan County High School softball coach Al Butler, on taking on No. 1-ranked Gordon Lee in the first round:
"All the (Lady Redskins) talk about is how they can't wait for Gordon Lee in the first round," he said. "All four times we've played Gordon Lee in the first game and in the past it's like, oh no, we've got a bad draw. This year, we want to play them first. We want to see them while we're fresh and while Tiffany is fresh."
History: While the Lady Redskins are still in search of their first state fast pitch title, the program has some tradition to be proud of. Plenty of it. Bryan County won Class A slow-pitch titles in 1983 and again in 1986 and one more time in 2001. Slow pitch was discontinued in 2009 as a GHSA sport.
More recently, the Lady Redskins have made a habit of getting to the state fast-pitch finals - as noted earlier, four times in the past five seasons - and they finished third in 2010.
More: Bryan County will practice today at Houston County High School in Warner Robins before heading on to Columbus, according to coach Butler.
If you go: The softball complex is located at the South Commons Softball Complex, 400 Fourth Street in Columbus. The trip is approximately 237 miles and takes four hours, according to online directions available at GHSA.net. The tourney runs through Saturday.
Check out game scores and updates at bryancountynews.net beginning Thursday afternoon.