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Nelson leads Adairsville softball into 2017 campaign

The Adairsville Lady Tigers softball team will travel just down the road Monday evening to take on county rival Cass in both team’s 2017 regular season opener.

The game will mark the debut of new Adairsville head coach Amanda Nelson.

Nelson is a Rome, GA native and this will be her first year as a head coach. She played collegiately at Valdosta State University and earned her degree in Spanish Education.

Prior to taking over the Lady Tigers’ program, Nelson spent nine seasons coaching at Alexander High School in Douglas County and Pepperell High School in Lindale.

She has been encouraged by the attitude of her new troops.

“I’m new, so I’m just getting to know the girls,” Nelson told Bartow Sports Zone Saturday afternoon. “It’s a wonderful group of girls. They love being on the softball field, practicing and playing ball. They’ve been a fun group to be around. They’re working hard every day to get better and prepare for the challenges of the season ahead.”

Adairsville finished 9-13 in 2016 and 5-8 in Region 6AAA. The Lady Tigers’ season ended with a region playoff series loss to top-seeded Ringgold.

The Lady Tigers return three seniors for the 2017 campaign.

Nelson credited the senior players with accepting their leadership roles.

“Emily Collum, Loren Harris, and Mackenzie Gwin have taken over as leaders for this team. They have done a really good job. I hate that I’m going to only have them for one year,” added the first-year head coach.

Last season, pitcher Loren Harris emerged as the Lady Tigers’ top performer in the pitching circle and Nelson expects that to continue.

“Loren is definitely our ace,” noted Nelson. “She has committed to University of North Georgia already, so I’m excited to have her this season and looking forward to seeing her succeed at the next level. She has really good velocity and also has good movement on her off-speed pitches.”

The rising senior has also shown some pop in her bat in the pre-season.

“She has looked good as a hitter,” added Nelson. “She’s one of those pitchers that will definitely stay in the lineup to hit and she has shown quite a bit of power in the pre-season.”

A pair of freshman pitchers, Taylor Rhodes and Victoria O’Neal, will also be called on to throw for Adairsville.

“The freshmen are looking good,” said Nelson. “They’ve shown a good variety of velocity and control.”

The Lady Tigers’ coach also expects Emily Collum, Havyn Isaac, and Alexa Varner to be among her leaders on offense.

“Emily has some power. She homered last Thursday in our official scrimmage with Armuchee,” the coach reflected. “Havyn has looked good at the plate. She’s a hitter that can bunt and has developed into a slap-hitter also. She is looking like a force to be reckoned with at the plate. Alexa has been good too. She moves runners with her bat and does what she needs to do to get on base.”

Adairsville will face non-region opponents when they play at the Dalton Tournament, Bartow County Championship Tournament, Armuchee, Cartersville and Monday’s games at Cass.

Nelson is looking forward to the challenges of playing teams new to her experience.

“I don’t know a lot about the caliber of teams outside our region that we will be facing. The schedule was in place when I got here,” she continued. “This region is really good, however.”

The Lady Tigers will face Region 6AAA foes Coahulla Creek, Ringgold, North Murray, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, Bremen, Haralson County, Sonoraville, and Calhoun.

Calhoun was state runner-up in 2016 and Ringgold advanced to the Class AAA Sweet Sixteen.

“I’m new to this region, so I have a lot to learn about these teams as we go along,” said Nelson. “I know from their reputation, however, this is a tough region. The league includes a lot of good, solid teams.”

The Lady Tigers’ coach said she is anxious to get the year started.

“I’m excited to see what these girls can accomplish this season. They are working well together, but right now putting the team together is like putting together a big puzzle. We are simply working as hard as we can to find where all the pieces fit to generate the most success.”

Nelson and her husband Dean have four girls; Riley 10, Josie 2, Sadie 1, and Hallie on the way.

Following Monday's opener at Cass, the Lady Tigers have region home games Tuesday and Thursday against Coahulla Creek and Ringgold. All three games are scheduled for 5:55pm starts.

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