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Experienced Lady Cats open 2017 campaign

The Woodland Wildcats softball team opens its 2017 season Monday at home when they host the Carrollton Lady Trojans in a Region 7-AAAAA matchup scheduled for 5:55 pm.

The game was originally scheduled for August 10 but was moved due to inclement weather.

For Lady Cats’ head coach Colman Roberts, Woodland returns a lineup loaded with experience.

“Every starter returning this year played in the state playoffs last year against Whitewater,” Roberts pointed out. “This is a group that has faced some really good competition and had a strong finish last year, so they should be ready. It’s my job to help make sure our chemistry is where it needs to be.”

Woodland’s 2016 season started slowly, but the Lady Cats rallied down the stretch to squeeze into the Class 5A state playoffs as a No 4-seed.

Woodland won 8 of 11 games in a late regular season, region, and state playoff surge that included an opening round state playoff series sweep of Miller Grove. They were then knocked from the playoffs in the Round of 16 by Whitewater to finish the year 15-21 overall. The Lady Cats were 9-9 in region play.

“We made a lot of errors in the early portion of last season,” noted Roberts. “Errors are always a concern. Teams like Carrollton, Villa Rica, Kell, and even Paulding County, Cass, Hiram and East Paulding will make you pay if you give them extra outs.”

Those seven teams, along with Woodland and Rome make up the nine-team Region 7-AAAAA league. The top four teams qualify for the state playoffs.

“I would say Carrollton, Villa Rica, and Kell are the teams to beat,” conceded Roberts. “Kell’s pitcher broke her hand at the end of last season and now she’ll be back as a sophomore. She had 16 strikeouts in both games against us last year. They are tough with her in the circle.”

In addition to their region slate, Woodland will play home-and-home games with Cartersville and a road game at Lassiter. The Lady Cats will also face top competition in the Allatoona Buccaneer Bash, the Bartow County Championship Tournament, and the Lowndes Lady Vikes Invitational in Valdosta.

“I like playing good competition,” added Roberts. “I think it makes us better.”

Roberts lineup will be anchored in the pitching circle by junior Sarah Baynard. She finished last season with 99 strikeouts, 14 wins, and a 3.51 ERA. Jordan Duck, is also a junior who will start at third base and contribute some time as a pitcher.

Behind the plate, Skylar Chappell will do the bulk of the catching. She hit .406 in the Lady Cats’ two state playoff series last year and finished the year hitting .318 with a pair of homers and 21 RBIs. The junior also led the region last season with a .962 fielding percentage.

Left-handed hitting senior Brittney Cox will start at shortstop for the Lady Cats. Cox hit .398 last season including a .472 average with 10 RBIs in the region and state playoffs.

The remainder of the expected starters will include outfielders Madgie Robinson (Jr.), Audrey Morris (Sr.), and Caroline Higdon (Jr.), along with sophomores Bella Carnes at second base and Morgan Bailey at first base.

“Freshmen Ansley Evans and Kendyl Hardin will definitely see some varsity time too,” said Roberts. “Hardin is a catcher and corner infielder and Evans has the ability to play a lot of different positions.”

Roberts knows the early part of the season will go a long way in determining the level of contribution for some of his players.

“We all wear the exact same uniform — JV and varsity, with no duplicate numbers — so I tell the girls all the time they could move up or down between varsity and JV from game-to-game.”

Rounding out the varsity roster for Woodland are Hope Schultz (sophomore pitcher), Madi Bentley (freshman pitcher) Morgan Cooper (freshman utility), Makayla Dowdy (freshman outfielder), Allyssa Motes (sophomore outfielder), Maggie Pruitt (freshman infielder), Gracie Styles (freshman OF/1B), Brianna Hill (sophomore, 1B), Kaylee Jones (junior outfielder), Katie Brookshire (sophomore outfielder), and Hannah Miller (freshman infielder).

Some of the Lady Cats got a taste of competition this past weekend as Woodland helped host the Allatoona JV Tournament. Woodland’s JV team went 4-0 in the tournament with wins over South Paulding, Coahulla Creek, Woodstock, and Sonoraville and did not commit an error in any of those games.

Following Monday’s varsity opener, Woodland travels to Cass Tuesday and hosts Villa Rica on Thursday in two more Region 7-AAAAA games. Both are 5:55 pm starts.

PHOTO CREDIT: Woodland Lady Cats' team photo courtesy

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