December 6, 2021

Deep young roster for 2018 Lady Braves

(Franklin, GA) — Coach Matt Hornsby and a new look Heard County Lady Brave varsity softball team have put in quite a lot of work this summer preparing for the upcoming 2018 regular season that begins this week with a Thursday road game at Villa Rica.

Senior Lora Glover

After making the trip to the Class AA Elite 8 for five straight seasons, a young 2017 team with only two seniors finished just short of Columbus after falling in a round two series the eventual state champion Rockmart.

As young as last year’s team was, the 2018 Lady Braves will be even younger with the influx of several talented young freshman players from a middle school team that went undefeated last season.

The arrival of those freshman and the advancement of the underclassmen from the 2017 team will give Hornsby and staff the largest roster of talent in his nine seasons at HHS.

Normally, the coach likes to keep about 13-14 girls on his varsity roster but this season he plans to begin with 18 a number that could climb even higher with mid-season call-ups. The competition for starting positions has been stiff with multiple standouts vying for almost every spot on the field.

Coach Hornsby knows that a deep roster will give his team some big advantages from a strategic standpoint but may also present a challenge when it comes to playing time.

“We have the depth in our program right now from middle school up to varsity that can match most AAAA or AAAAA schools. We have a really good group of hard-working seniors returning and if they can get some good help from some of these underclassmen I think we can have a successful season,” says Hornsby.

“If our girls can just stay on the same page whether they are on the field or in the dugout I think we could be in the same situation we were during our state title season in 2014. During that run, not every girl could start the game — but by the time each game was over, everyone on the roster had contributed in some very meaningful way.”

Senior Katelyn Baldwin

The Lady Braves will return all three pitchers from last year’s squad: senior Haley Bennett, senior Sydney Gay and junior Katelyn Jiles are each are expected to contribute again this year.

Behind the plate, two-year starting junior Brittany Graley and freshman standout Mackenzie White will handle the pitchers although White is also a candidate to push for time at both middle infield positions. White has already committed to play college ball at the University of Louisianna-Lafayette for the Ragin’ Cajuns.

At first base, senior Lora Glover returns along with upstart freshman Abigail Lathrop and Jiles. The second base ans shortstop positions are also still a bit up in the air with seniors Hannah Holden and Alexus Crawford challenging for the spots with White and yet another freshman standout Emma Helton.

Freshman Janiyah Strong is expected to start at third base where the power-hitting phenom could make a run at several Heard County power hitting records in her career. She has already shown consistent power at the middle school level (4 homers in 2017) and this summer during varsity summer action.

Sophomore Emily Shelnutt could also see time at third base and as the DH along with fellow sophomore Alyssa Hall who Hornsby says has shown some strong improvement during the off-season.

Junior Hannah Holden

In the outfield, again several talented players will be battling for each position including Marissa Garza, Tori Caldwell, Taylor Paris, senior Katelyn Baldwin, and possibly some other players depending on how the infield shakes out.

“These players are the ones who have put in the hard work and our main goal will be making sure all of our girls are playing for each other and for Heard County,” says Hornby. “If they can do that they will be fine.”

The Lady Brave opener at Villa Rica will start at 5:55 PM and the squad is scheduled to face Troup and Lagrange at the Callaway tourney Saturday.

The Lady Braves will face a tougher region schedule in 2018 after the return of perennial power Bremen to Class AA and Region 5-AA. Other Region 5-AA foes will include defending champion Lamar County, Callaway, Temple, and Jordan.

Rockmart is expected to again be strong in Class AA. The Lady Braves will host Rockmart in a big regular season game at HHS on September 25.

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