When Richmond Hill High School's softball team played well, the Lady Wildcats were hard to beat.
Just ask No. 1-ranked Greenbrier, which nearly lost the opener of the Region 2-AAAA tournament to Richmond Hill but managed to hold on for a 10-9 win. Or pose that question to Region 2A-AAAA rival Wayne County, which fell 11-1 to the Lady Wildcats on Sept. 20.
At the time, The Lady Yellow Jackets were sporting a 21-1 record and ranked No. 5 in Class AAAA. Richmond Hill dismantled them in five innings.
"That game was by far the best game we played this season," said third-year coach Sean Strickland. "The potential of what the team could be showed in that game."
But the Lady Wildcats finished 10-19, 4-6 in the subregion. The best-hitting team in Strickland's tenure - the Lady Wildcats hit a collective .295 - was also prone to mistakes in the field. Richmond Hill committed 83 errors in 29 games despite spending a lot of practice time trying to improve.
"The offensive production was as good as I've seen," Strickland said. "Defensively, we got better toward the end of the season, but we made a lot of mistakes"
Still, Richmond Hill made the region playoffs and gave the region's top team a scare in the first game, thanks to a solid group of seniors that included pitcher/infielder Lauren Simerly (..418, 21 RBI, two home runs), shortstop Cheyenne Marsh (.471, 14 RBI, 34 runs scored) and first baseman Trisha Jennings (two home runs, 13 RBI), along with second baseman Amy Robben, Sidney Millek and Oliva Bascombe.
Of the six, Marsh has signed with Brenau while Jennings reportedly has committed to play at Berry College and Simerly may be considering Berry as well. All were sophomores when Strickland, a former baseball player at RHHS, took over the program.
"The seniors set the tone as far as work ethic and how I want the game to be played," he said. "They did a great job. They set the foundation for the future."
Though Richmond Hill lost six seniors, the team returns a number of starters, including catcher Sophia Lorimer (.308, eight RBI) infielders Kaylee Vaughn and Amber Nixon and three players who saw action on the mound this fall - Ally Crum, Makayla Penny and Molly Burnsed.
"On varsity we have 11 girls coming back, which gives us a really good core group," Strickland said. "But we do have some question marks and there will be chances for new players to step up."
What's more, the Lady Wildcats could find themselves in a new region by this time next year. Georgia is moving to six classifications and it's unclear where Richmond Hill will wind up once the dust settles. In the meantime, the Lady Wildcats will get back to work soon looking to improve on last season's mark, Strickland said.
Award winners from Tuesday night's team banquet:
Coaches: Sidney Millek
Coaches: Trisha Jennings
Defense: Olivia Bascombe
Offense: Lauren Simerly
MVP: Cheyenne Marsh
Wildcat Award: Amy Robben
Coaches: Madison Connor
Coaches: Liz Wallace
Defense: Carolina Williams
Offense: Cristy Davenport
Future Wildcat: Ally Crum