COVINGTON - The Alcovy Lady Tigers softball went from being third from the bottom with a single region win last year to making the 8-AAAA playoffs after finishing 14-12 overall and 5-7 in the region in their second season.
Of the four goals the team had before they took the field, they achieved two of them. One was to win more games than they lost and the second was to make it to the region tournament.
The goals they fell short of were making the sectionals and going to Columbus for the state quarterfinals.
"I'm very pleased with the season. You always want to go further, but when you go from 4-19 to 14-12 and making the (region) tournament while starting up to six freshmen, you can't complain," Alcovy coach Casey Bates said. "I had four freshmen out there every game. Sometimes I had five, sometimes I had six."
One of the freshmen making an impact was pitcher Dallas Hardin.
Hardin didn't have a lot of strikeouts, but that's not what she's about.
"She doesn't walk batters; she throws strikes and makes girls swing the bats. I've noticed that you usually don't have many girls batting over .325 to .350 in softball," Bates said. "She averages less than one walk per game. If you don't put them on base and make them earn their way, that's pretty tough. Actually, when she throws strikes, our defense plays better defense."
Hardin finished the season with a 1.68 ERA and a 10-10 record while giving up less than one walk per game.
After the team walked five or six batters per game last year, Bates is happy with Hardin's performance in the circle even though she only struck out an average of five batters per game.
"She didn't strike out that many, but remember she's only a freshman. I anticipate those doubling by the time she's a senior. Personally, I don't care if she strikes them out or not. If she pitches like she did and gets them out, that's all we want. Pop-ups and ground balls are quicker than strikeouts," Bates said.
Also pitching for the Lady Tigers were freshman Summer Kusch and sophomore Johnna Bagley.
"We had some other pitchers that stepped up and pitched well for us. Summer Kusch pitched well for us, especially in tournaments. Johnna Bagley came in and pitched when she needed to," Bates said. "The name of the game is pitching, throwing strikes and see what happens."
Last year, the Lady Tigers were run-ruled seven times. This year, not only did they not get run-ruled, they actually run-ruled several teams.
Falling victim to Alcovy by 10 runs or more were Cedar Shoals, Social Circle, Jackson County and Winder-Barrow.
Alcovy also had decent showings in the Social Circle and Morgan County tournaments.
They started their year going 3-2 and were one win away from being in the final four in the Social Circle tournament. Later in the season, they placed second behind Rockdale in the Morgan County tournament.
Pacing the Lady Tigers at the plate and in fielding was Amber Melton. The sophomore batted .318 with two home runs while only committing six errors all season at third base.
"This year her batting average came close to doubling. She hit the harder-throwing pitchers better than she did the slower-throwing pitchers," Bates said.
Also batting over the .300 mark was Hardin, who had a .302 average.
"We've got some young kids that are almost there, they just need some more practice with the faster velocity," Bates said. "I told them confidence breeds confidence. If you go out there and pitchers keep us close and fielders make plays, they'll start swinging the bat better."
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.