The Lady Lions went 19-14 and took the No. 4 seed from Region 6-AAA into the playoffs, where they upset the Region 7-AAA champions and No. 5 team in the state in the first round of the state playoffs before falling in the second round.
“It was a good run there at the end, but if you look throughout the season, a lot of the losses we had earlier in the season were close. We had walk-off home runs hit against us and that kind of thing. Last year was a different season in that we were experienced and were extremely competitive. Most of our games were close. This year there are going to be a lot of new faces,” Central coach Jimmy LeBlanc said.
The Lady Lions graduated six seniors from last year, but still return a lot of young players that got experience last fall.
“Out of our top 12 players last year, five were seniors, one was a junior and six were freshmen or something like that. We’ve got some experienced sophomores, but we have some more freshmen we’re adding, too. Probably nine out of our top 12 right now are either freshmen or sophomores. We’re young,” LeBlanc said.
Last year, freshmen Taylor Funk, Aubrey Bennett and Hayley Sims got a lot of experience, while others also saw time on the field for the Central coach and now — still just sophomores — they will be looked to help lead a young squad this season.
Along with the youth comes some experience in seniors, led by catcher Alison Jiles, who will be looked upon to provide that senior leadership.
“They are only sophomores, but they played a lot of softball and that’s big. The leadership, Alison in particular, is going to be expected and important from our seniors. It’s important for them to be quality leaders this year,” LeBlanc said.
Central remains in Class AAA, but will move to Region 4 with some unfamiliar faces. Haralson County remains in the Lady Lions’ region, and LeBlanc is familiar with teams like Callaway, Rockmart and Chapel Hill. But the three additions from Atlanta — Douglass, Coretta Scott King and Jackson — are unknown.
“The real question mark for us are the Atlanta schools. We don’t know a lot about them. We’re trying to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are. I think the ones we know about are quality. It’s the other three we really don’t know anything about,” LeBlanc said.
The season will open up for the Lady Lions at the Villa Rica Wildcat Invitational with games against Ridgeland at 4:30 p.m. and Villa Rica at 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 10. LeBlanc will use these games to put together his lineup for the rest of the season.
“Get all the pitchers time and obviously gaining experience for the youth and move some people around a little bit. It’s a chance to get experience in a short period of time,” LeBlanc said.