Don’t look now, but the dawn of the 2018 softball season is creeping up and high school coaching staffs from around the state are using these late-July days to shake off the rust and get a glimpse of what they’ll have to work with in the fall.
A trio of local ballclubs got to do just that at the East Carroll Softball Complex on Monday as Haralson County, Heard County and Mount Zion each played a pair of preseason scrimmages during Day 1 of the annual Trojan Summer Slam hosted by Carrollton High School head coach Lisa Phillips.
Opening at 10 a.m. was Heard County, which previously got its first taste of summer competition at an FCA camp at Columbus State earlier in the month.
The Lady Braves' pair of Trojan Summer Slam scrimmages were different as head coach Matt Hornsby finally had nearly his entire roster stepping onto the diamond this time around.
“We hadn’t had everyone here throughout the summer because of travel ball, vacations and stuff,” Hornsby said. “But we’re starting to get everybody back and get a realistic look at what we’re going to look like. It looks like we’re going to be much-improved, for sure.”
Throwing an extremely young roster into the fire in 2017, Hornsby is confident heading into the 2018 season with the amount of depth that’s been established over the past 12 months.
These preseason exhibitions will determine where exactly on the field and in the order that talent will be placed.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of depth last year except for base-running, but this year we’ve got a lot of depth all the way through,” Hornsby said. “Right now, we’re trying to make sure that everybody gets their shot. Any time we play scrimmages during the summer, that’s going to be a big part of them competing for their spot. We’re trying to make sure that everybody gets the same amount of at-bats just to give us a realistic look going into the season. In the circle, we’ve got all four of our pitchers back this week, so it’s about making sure that they get their innings to give us a good look at them and see where they fall.”
Falling to Heard County on Field 1 were the Lady Eagles of Mount Zion, who are going through their own process of deck reshuffling.
Coming off a trip to the Class A Public final four last October, MZ head coach Jennifer Carter Roland will have a batch of fresh faces to get up to speed over the next few weeks before the season begins.
“We have a few promising freshmen coming in, so we have to rely on them to grow up quickly and mature,” Carter Roland said. “We’re going through some growing pains in the summer, so hopefully we can get those worked out before the season.”
For the head coach and her young roster, the final score doesn’t matter as much as getting a handle on what pieces will fit where.
“We’re pretty much moving around,” Carter Roland said. “We’re moving around right now so I can see their potential and what they can do at different positions. I’m just looking to see what they can show me in these summer games.”
Also battling MZ on Monday was Haralson County, which is entering the fall under the direction of first-year head coach Kristen Padgett.
Getting their first taste of preseason action against her alma mater last week, Padgett saw things go a different way for her Rebelettes in their first outing at the Trojan Slam.
“We played well (on Thursday) against Cedartown. Varsity ended up winning 13-3 and JV won 14-1,” Padgett said. “(Monday) against Mount Zion we came out hot, but got satisfied and didn’t keep going with the bats like we did at Cedartown. It’s about winning every at-bat at the plate.”
The new Haralson head coach will have plenty of returning production to work with in her first season in Tallapoosa, a haul that includes five returning seniors.
Like her local neighboring programs, this time of the year is about tinkering with things to see what will work best moving forward.
“We’re trying different things here. We’re going to mix up our pitchers, try different positions and work batting orders to try to see what we got,” Padgett said. “So when the regular season gets here, we’ll know the correct batting order and who needs to go where.”
The three ballclubs, along with Bowdon, Central and host Carrollton will return to the East Carroll Softball Complex for Day 2 of the Trojan Summer Slam this morning at 10 a.m.