Bryan County is assured of making the softball Class A-DI state playoffs and Richmond Hill is in a strong position to reach post-season play in Class 7A.
But neither will be going in on a hot streak.
It has been a season of struggle for both teams, especially the Redskins where high expectations weigh heavily on player’s shoulders. Bryan County has been one of the area’s dominant teams the last four years but suffered heavy graduation losses.
In a sport where pitching is dominant the Redskins have hit well for the most part but inexperience in the circle has reared its ugly head at times.
Coach Jason Roundtree has full confidence in sophomores Erin Deal and Abigail Lee and freshman Emily Johnson but they have all suffered growing pains during the course of the season.
Bryan County carried a 9-7 record into a Wednesday night game with St. Vincent’s Academy after dropping a 9-7 Region 3A-D1 game with Claxton on Tuesday. The loss to the Tigers left the defending region champion Redskins in fourth-place and eliminated in the region race.
Because there are only four region teams that play softball Bryan County is automatically qualified for the state playoffs. With region games remaining with Screven County at home this coming Tuesday and next Thursday at Claxton it now becomes a matter of playing for seeding.
In a region with no dominant team Claxton (7-2, 2-0) is in the driver’s seat followed by Screven (7-8, 1-2), Metter (6-6, 1-2) and Bryan County (9-7, 1-3).
Richmond Hill has been looking for consistency all season—it has managed only one two-game winning streak—but could lock up a playoff spot Thursday at Valdosta where it takes on the Wildcats in a doubleheader.
As with Bryan there is no dominant team in Region1-7A although Colquitt County (13-7, 4-0) and Lowndes (11-5, 3-0) appear to be the head of the class, leaving Camden County (7-7, 2-4), Richmond Hill (5-9, 1-2) and Valdosta (3-10, 0-4) fighting over the leftovers.
The two county rivals met last Thursday at Richmond Hill with the Wildcats prevailing, 6-3, after a game scheduled at Bryan County on Wednesday was rained out with the Redskins holding a 4-3 lead after three innings.
Johnson started for Bryan County and couldn’t get out of the first inning. The Wildcats struck for four runs without the benefit of a hit. Johnson struggled with her control and was replaced by Lee with no one out.
Lee held Richmond Hill in check until the sixth when the Wildcats pushed across two runs after the Redskins had battled back to a 4-3 deficit.
“It was a tough loss,” Roundtree said. “We’re breaking in new pitchers this year and we’re a little bit snakebit right now.
“Cam Parker, for example, hit three balls hard today and didn’t get on base. Then we had some close calls that could have gone either way. We’ve been on the road for like a month and that takes its toll on you.”
The game with Richmond Hill was Bryan County’s sixth in its last seven games away from home. Unfortunately, the return to the friendly confines didn’t provide much relief against Claxton.
Richmond Hill lost at Effingham County, 4-0, on Monday night in a continuation of its struggle to put together a string of wins. “We’ve seen some growth in some areas of the game but we’re still inconsistent,” Coach Chris Jenkins said. “I feel like our pitching is really coming around but we’ve got to do a better job of putting the ball in play and taking good at bats.”
Adriana Williams held the Redskins at bay and she, along with fellow sophomore Bria Milledge, give Jenkins hopes for a strong finish in region play. The Wildcats still have Colquitt and Lowndes to play. They face Lowndes at home at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
“Adriana has thrown the ball well the last two weeks,” Jenkins said. “Her velocity seems to be increasing as the season has gone on and that’s what you like to see.
“Both of our pitchers have done a good job. Still, in the grand scheme of things we’re fairly inexperienced pitching wise,” Jenkins said. “Now we’ve got to shore up the other parts of the game to go along with them.”