Softball teams start today in tournaments

COVINGTON - All the hard work done during the offseason will hopefully pay off as five local softball teams launch their 2008 seasons in tournaments today.

Eastside and Heritage will travel to play in the South Gwinnett Diamond Classic, while Alcovy, Newton and Salem will be going to the Griffin Diamond Classic.

While everyone would like to win their tournament, most of the coaches realize that there are more important things than wins and losses.

"A win-loss record is always important but not a priority," Alcovy coach Casey Bates said. "Getting better and finding out who is the best nine for region play is the highest priority."

A key point to making the weekend a success for all the squads will be what the coaches see out of their players.

"Everyone likes to win games, but I have told the girls I measure their success on improvement," Salem coach Stephanie Bassett said. "If a girl is working really hard on bunting and puts one down in a game, but we lose the game, I consider that a success. When everyone works to make themselves better at something and we put it all together in a game situation, we will win."

Eastside, which is ranked No. 9 in Class AAA, plays Brookwood, which is ranked No. 8 in Class AAAAA, before facing Ola in today's action.

"The reason for us to be in the South Gwinnett tourney and LFO tournament next weekend is to get us ready for region and see what we need improvement on," Eastside coach Heather Wood said. "I feel we will be challenged throughout the tournament to get us ready to go for region next week."

Heritage will start play against the host team, South Gwinnett before playing Apalachee, the No. 10-ranked team in Class AAAA.

"Any time we go on the field, we want to win. But in the overall scheme, this tournament is to get us ready to play our region schedule," Heritage coach Dickie Hightower said. "I don't really care (who we play). We will work on the things we need to work on regardless of who is in the other dugout."

In head-to-head play, Salem and Newton square off at 6:30 p.m. in Griffin. Salem will have a warm-up game against Crisp County, while Newton will complete its doubleheader against Crisp County at 8 p.m.

Alcovy will start the tournament against Georgia Military College and Lovett.

"We will hopefully be put in the gold bracket on Saturday," Bates said. "That will have us playing three of the better teams in the tourney on Saturday. The better competition you face, the better you get towards region play."

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: Schedule

South Gwinnett Diamond Classic

(at Brookwood H.S.)

· Eastside vs. Brookwood, 5 p.m.

· Eastside vs. Ola, 8 p.m.

(at South Gwinnett H.S.)

· Heritage vs. South Gwinnett, 6:30 p.m.

· Heritage vs. Apalachee, 8 p.m.

Griffin Diamond Classic

(at Volunteer Park)

· Salem vs. Crisp County, 5 p.m.

· Salem vs. Newton, 6:30 p.m.

· Crisp County vs. Newton, 8 p.m.

· Alcovy vs. Georgia Military College, 5 p.m.

· Alcovy vs. Lovett, 8 p.m.