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GHC softball fourth at GCAA tourney

The Georgia Highlands softball team had its 2016 season come to a close Saturday at the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association championship tournament played at Strong Rock Christian School in Locust Grove, GA. The 4th-seeded Chargers went 2-2 in the tournament to finish fourth.

Georgia Military College (35-22) defeated South Georgia State in the finals to win the GCAA tournament and earned a spot in the NJCAA Softball World Series in St. George, Utah May 18-21.

GMC entered the tournament as the 2nd-seed and knocked off top-seed South Georgia State (32-9) twice on their way to the title.

Georgia Highlands had wins over East Georgia State and Andrew College, but lost to South Georgia State in the second round of the winners’ bracket and were eliminated by Darton State in the quarterfinals.

Both tournament losses were by a single run. The Chargers lost 5-4 to South Georgia State and fell 2-1 to Darton State. The wins were 6-0 over East Georgia and 9-1 over Andrew.

“We played good softball,” said GHC head coach Melissa Wood. “When we made mistakes, they were aggressive mistakes. The girls had great attitudes and really played hard.”

Most of the 2016 edition of the Chargers will be back for the 2017 campaign, so Wood is excited for her team’s future.

“Our freshmen got a lot of attention from the four-year colleges that were at the tournament scouting prospects,” said Wood. “That’s always important. We want to provide as much exposure for our players as possible.”

The Chargers, who finished with a 27-33 overall record, had only three sophomores in 2016. One sophomore, Jace Armstrong, is a communications major that has accepted a paid position in the Tennessee Lady Volunteers communications department of their athletic program. Ashley Jordan has an offer from Kennesaw State to continue playing softball and will be making her decision in the coming days. The third sophomore, Victoria Woods, had an unfortunate softball career ending injury. With so few players graduating from the program, the pressure has not been as great for the current recruiting cycle. “We only had three sophomores, so right now we have five signees for next year,” said coach Wood. “We’ve signed two pitchers — a righty and a lefty, an outfielder, and two other athletes that will compete for positions in either the infield or outfield,” the coach continued.

“We could add a walk-on or two, but the vast majority of our team returns for next season,” added Wood.

Freshmen Carlee Thurmond and Rebecca Meade were named to the 2016 GCAA All-Tournament Team and five Chargers received 2016 All-Region honors. Meade, a right hand pitcher, became the first freshman in GHC history to earn First Team conference honors. She is also the first freshman, and only the third athlete in GHC history, to receive a nomination toward All-American consideration.

Four other freshmen were named Second Team All Region, including Brianna Fickes (1B, Corona, CA); Caitlin Parks (C, Cumming, GA); Carlee Thurmond (UT, Winder, GA); and Lauren Womack (SS, Cartersville, GA).

“We broke a ton of program records this year, so we are looking forward to building on this season and competing for a championship next year,” concluded Wood.

Georgia Highlands will offer a variety of softball instruction opportunities for youngsters during the collegiate off-season. “We like to give back to the Bartow County Recreation Department,” noted coach Wood. “They allow us to use their fields and do our upgrades, so we support them by offering one of the best youth camps in the country.” “We do a four-day kids camp in the summer. The kids get a t-shirt and all the sessions are in the mornings. Parents can drop kids off on their way to work and pick them up at lunch. We keep the cost down to around $65 and our players come back and work with all the kids,” Wood said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

The Chargers will also have prospect camps in the fall for potential, future college players and also plan to offer hitting and defensive clinics at the Beacon Sports indoor facility in Emerson during the summer months. Information on all the camps will be updated on the Georgia Highlands College athletic department website,

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