Georgia Highlands College coach Melissa Wood has only one way of describing this year's finish. "This was a group of competitors, and the third place finish does not reflect the heart, grit, and adversity our athletes endured and overcame during the postseason tournament," said the Chargers coach.
GHC was slapped with an unfortunate schedule, due to inclement weather, and ended up playing four games in one day on Friday. The team played five games in less than 29 hours if you count Saturday's contest.
"That's unheard of in modern day collegiate softball, especially in post-season and your season is on the line," continued Coach Wood.
With a huge scheduling disadvantage, the team still advanced to the final day of the post-season tournament. GHC sat in the same side of the bracket as eventual tournament champs, Georgia Military College, which would be the only team to defeat the Chargers in tournament play. GMC had wins over the Chargers Friday and Saturday in the double-elimination event. Both games ended dramatically with walk off hits in the bottom of the seventh.
"While it stinks to be on the losing end of two decisive games, it was good competitive, emotional softball. This was the most competitive the GCAA softball tournament has ever been," Wood added.
The team plans to build from this year's success. The Chargers were 43-14 for the year, and the sophomore class has broken most team and individual records previously held by the institution.
GHC added their first Region XVII MVP in program history with sophomore outfielder Andria Booth (photo right). The Most Valuable Player is awarded to the athlete with the best performance during the conference regular season. Booth, a DI commit, led the league with a .441 batting average while pounding 5 doubles, a conference-best five triples, and hit her first collegiate home run in her final conference game. She also recorded 17 stolen bases.
GHC was awarded an astounding nine All-Region members after batting .370 as a team: Booth (OF), Becca Meade (RHP), Brianna Fickes (1B), and Carlee Thurmond (C) all garnered first team honors. Micayla McCoy (RHP), Madison Gianfala (2B), Shayla Smith (3B), Hannah Wills (OF), and Shay Wooten (DP) were all named to the second team.
Four of the nine honorees are freshman and return for next season. Add that to a stellar group of rookies coming in and GHC has a lot to look forward to.
Four sophomores have already committed to four year programs: Andria Booth (NCAA DI Gardner Webb), Rebecca Meade (NCAA DII Georgia College & State University), Brianna Fickes (NAIA Georgia Gwinnett College), and Madison Gianfala (NAIA Reinhardt University).
Carlee Thurmond and Lacey Mount each have college visits set up in the next two weeks with intentions of playing collegiately their last two years.
Lauren Womack and Kaleigh Mobley will not be hanging up their cleats entirely, they will both attend Kennesaw State University next fall and participate in club and intramural sports.
Natalie Pederson chose the academic route, earning a Distinguished Scholar Award to finish a degree in Psychology at GCSU with intentions of interning at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville.
All nine sophomores will be walking this Saturday at graduation.