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No. 7-ranked Lady Redskins in Elite Eight
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Bryan County High School softball coach Al Butler said he remembers exactly when he knew his 2010 team had the stuff to seriously compete for a state title.
It was in September. In Tennessee, of all places.
“That moment was during the second day of the Chattanooga tournament, Gordon Lee’s tournament,” Butler said. “As coaches we did not know what to expect from our girls in this tournament. Including a 10-inning win on that Thursday against Savannah Christian, we played six games in 48 hours and five of those six teams were ranked in the top 10 in the state in their own respective classifications. As we prepared to play Strong Rock, another single A team in Columbus, and a Class 6 team from Oklahoma, which was  also ranked 6th in their state, the girls were beginning to play the best softball that we had played all year long.”
Bryan County won both games, and Bryan County’s coaching staff of Butler, Dan Kaufman and Karen Lynn knew it had something special cooking.
“This was (when) it became clear that we had what it took to compete with anyone,” Butler said. “Tiffany Howard pitched all six games in those 48 hours and finished the last game just as strong if not stronger than the first one.”
Now, the Lady Redskins (28-7) are back where they were at this time last year – bound for Columbus, where they’ll face a familiar foe when they take the field Thursday in the first round of the Class A finals.
But BCHS is aiming for a different result when the No. 7 Lady Redskins tangle with unbeaten and No. 1 ranked Gordon Lee (34-0). A year ago, the two schools met in the first round of the Elite Eight and the Lady Trojans blanked the Lady Redskins 1-0.
“We lost that game on a sac fly in the first inning,” Butler, whose 2009 team was bounced out of the state finals the next day in a 2-0 loss to Providence Christian. “We struggled offensively. Defensively we stuck in there and but just couldn’t get anything going.”
Behind standout pitcher Brenna Nation, the Lady Trojans went on to finish second in Class A to Eagles Landing Christian. The eight-time Region 6A champs have been one of the state’s dominant Class A programs for years; Gordon Lee won the Class A fast pitch title in 2004 and has been runner up in the state tournament every year since. The Lady Trojans also have a slow pitch state crown in 1993.  
Bryan County has a proud softball history of its own. The Lady Redskins have three slow- pitch state crowns, the last one coming in 2001, and this year marks the third time in four seasons BCHS has advanced to the fast-pitch Elite 8.
They could do better than that this year, their coach said.
 “When this team comes out and puts together a complete ballgame, as they’ve done several times this year, I like our chances against anybody,” said Butler, now in his third season as head coach.
The Lady Redskins played as much top flight competition as possible this fall – all seven losses were to top 10 teams from one of the state’s five classifications – and the team returns 10 players from last year’s squad. And the Lady Redskins have a star of their own, two-time Region 3A Player of the Year Tiffany Howard.
Howard’s statistics are remarkable. She led the Lady Redskins in just about every offensive category, from batting average (.573) to home runs (6). And when on the mound, Howard (26-7) was in a league of her own. The junior struck out 284 batters in 206 innings while allowing only 129 hits and 35 runs. Her ERA was 1.19, and she held opponents to a .160 batting average.
“Tiffany is going to have the ball in her hands every second of the way,” Butler said. “Any time you’ve got one of the state’s best pitchers, all we’ve got to do is get a little bit behind her and we’re in good shape.”
Howard wasn’t the only one to garner postseason honors for the Lady Redskins. Senior third baseman Bridget Bacon, junior second baseman Jerri Hines, junior right fiedler Sierra Cornell, junior center fielder Sierra Newman and junior catcher Jenna Schuman also earned All-Region 3A honors.
 “Bridget is one of the smartest players we have on the team and she has a lot of power and experience,” Butler said. “Jerri tore the cover off the ball at times this season. I look
forward to seeing her getting a shot at some of the state’s best pitchers.”
Cornell is important as No. 2 hitter behind Howard and for her defense, while Newman helps anchor the outfield and also is an offensive threat at the bottom of the Lady Redskins order. Both players are left handed hitters with plenty of speed.
“A lot of the success of our team falls on Cornell,” Butler said. “When she’s successful our chances of success greatly increase. She’s also made several plays defensively from right field on what would have been base hits by throwing runners out at first. Newman not only brings up the bottom of the order, but she’s one of the fastest kids on the team and when she’s in the outfield can run down anything.”
Schuman also has played a vital role in Bryan County’s success, Butler said. .
”She’s been rock solid back there … she does a good job of calling the game for Tiffany, who has a lot of confidence pitching back there and anybody thinking about running definitely has second thoughts.”
Left fielder Taylor Stanfield, a senior, was a standout defensively and she’s started to come around offensively, Butler said, while senior utility player Kayla Koskela has also been important to the team’s success.
 “Kayla goes from first to second to right to left to center just about every game and gives everybody a break,” Butler said. “Throughout the years it has helped us tremendously, especially with injuries because with her experience she can step right in and fill a spot for us with no problems.”
Junior first baseman Rebecca Strickland and starting sophomore shortstop Taylor Butler also help make the Lady Redskins go.
“Rebecca is hitting the ball well since returning from injury,.” Coach Butler said. ”She also provides a steady glove at first for our infielders to throw to. Taylor is one of the youngest on the field, but she has one of the strongest arms on the team and is starting to hit the ball with power on a consistent basis.”
Providing depth are junior infielder McKenzie Covington and freshmen Kaitlyn Meekins, Alana Walker and Amber Neagley.
“McKenzie comes off the bench regularly to pinch hit and run and Kaitlyn is a coutesy runner and pinch runner, both of them add more depth and give us more speed on the bases,” said Butler. “We use Alana as a pinch hitter. She has a lot of power and is able to put the ball in play for us.”
Neagley’s value to the team won’t show up in statistics, her coach said.
 “Even though she doesn’t see a lot of playing time, she’s one of the hardest working kids I ever had the privilege to work with,” Butler said. “What she does for us on game day is just and important as anyone else on the team.”
Bryan County already has had a fine season – the Lady Redskins and Region rival Savannah Christian are the only Savannah-area teams left in the state playoffs in any classification. But there’s more to be done, Butler said, noting any state title will include a contest against No. 1 Gordon Lee, so it’s better to get it on out of the way.
“These girls have played so much softball, I don’t think one team beating them one day or one year or five times in a row matters,” he said. “They know it’s a day to day game. They’re a real level headed group of girls. They don’t get too excited. They respect everybody but fear none, but when the games start they get in a different gear.”

A team that has already put together quite a season, but one they hope to extend a few more days.


Thursday, Oct. 28, 12 noon

Bryan County vs. Gordon Lee

Johnson County vs. Prince Avenue Christian

Savannah Christian vs. Strong Rock Christian

Irwin County vs. Providence Christian

Thursday, Oct. 28, 5:30 p.m.

Bryan County/Gordon Lee winner vs. Johnson County/Prince Avenue Christian winner

Savannah Christian/Strong Rock Christian winner vs. Irwin County/Providence Christian winner

Friday, Oct. 29, 9 a.m.

Bryan County/Gordon Lee loser vs. Johnson County/Prince Avenue Christian loser

Savannah Christian/Strong Rock Christian loser vs. Irwin County/Providence Christian loser

Friday, Oct. 29, 1 p.m.

Losers’ bracket quarterfinals

Friday, Oct. 29, 5 p.m.

Winners’ bracket finals

Losers’ bracket semifinal

Saturday, Oct. 30, 9 a.m.

Losers’ bracket finals

Saturday, Oct. 30, 11 a.m.

State championship game

Saturday, Oct. 30, 1 p.m.

State championship second game, if needed

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