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At Richmond Hill, slow pitch softball is making a quick comeback
The spring program, after years of inactivity, finished third in a state championship tournament in Woodstock.
RHHS Wildcats

An idea a year in the making paid big dividends for Richmond Hill’s slow pitch softball team. Slow pitch softball? Yes, you read right.

The school brought the long dormant program back to life this spring and last week it came within two runs of playing for a state championship. The Wildcats lost to Jefferson County, 12-10, in the double elimination tournament to finish 13-5. Creekview beat Jefferson for the title with Richmond Hill finishing third in the state.

The GHSA first sanctioned slow pitch in 1981 but the sport was all but abandoned when fast pitch was introduced in 1994. Some schools continued to field teams but slow pitch was discontinued in 2009 before being brought back in 2017.

Richmond Hill’s team came about as a result of fast pitch coach Chris Jenkins looking for something for his team to do in the spring, with fast pitch being a fall sport.

“We actually started talking about this a year ago,” said slow pitch Coach Tiffany Gray, who is one of Jenkins’ assistants. “We didn’t do anything but then we started talking about it again this year. Most of our kids play travel ball in the summer but we wanted them to be doing something in the spring.”

Jenkins and Gray approached athletic director Stacy Bennett and he asked them to gauge the interest level and get back to him. Once it was it was determined there was sufficient interest Bennett gave them the go ahead.

Even at that the season almost didn’t happen as paperwork was submitted to the GHSA at deadline. Principal Bivins Miller intervened with the GHSA and got the clearance to play.

“It was a two-week turnaround from the time we got the okay until we had a game,” Gray said. “About all of our players play fast pitch and that made tryouts go more smoothly. We had some girls tryout who had not played softball because they were intimidated by fast pitch which is understandable.”

From there it was a matter of learning rules, a different style of play and scheduling.

Initially the Wildcats played primarily Chatham County public schools such as Beach, Windsor Forest and Groves. The disparity in talent level soon became obvious and Gray started looking outside the area for games.

“We played West Laurens and they showed us what slow pitch was all about,” Gray said. “That was an eye-opener.”

West Laurens, it should be noted, had won the last two state championships and was one of the favorites again this year.

“When we went to sectionals, we were a little nervous,” Gray said. “We didn’t know what to expect but we played a couple of schools at our level and won. We felt confident we had the talent needed to be successful.”

Lily Welch, who is the catcher on the fast pitch team, pitched every game while Mirrah Blake, one of those who had not played softball, wound up as the team’s catcher.

Infield starters were Maggie Jenkins at first base, Maggie Reynolds at second, Ainsley Washington at shortstop and Aubrey Ragins at third. Ragins, a freshman who had an outstanding debut season last fall, led the team in home runs with eight. The outfield had Ashella Matias in left, Paloma Gullickson in right, Skylar Klinglesmith in left center and Lennon Monaco in right center.

Completing the roster were Sikari Webb, Adriana Williams, Aubrey Villella, Bria Milledge, Kiliegh Laurens,  and Peyton Duncan. Gullickson was the only senior while the rest of the roster consisted of two juniors, five sophomores and eight freshmen.

“We played a lot of young players,” Gray said. “We’re excited to see the effect it will have on our fastpitch program in the fall. We think it will be positive.”


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