CONYERS - The Rockdale softball team wants to pick up this season right where it left off last year.
Last season, the Lady Bulldogs posted a 19-9 record under then first-year coach Holly Hamilton and earned a trip to the Class AAAA state sectional, ending an 11-year state playoff drought.
Rockdale lost the standout battery combination of pitcher Jessie Holmes and catcher Ashleigh George to graduation as well as infielders Kayla Kelly and Whitney Dixe.
So, despite losing that talented group, Hamilton and the Lady Bulldogs are looking to duplicate last year's success.
"I am very positive about this season and think that we are going to do well. I believe in the girls and the power that they have to achieve the goals that we have set," Hamilton said. "I know that there will be those to doubt us and say we can't possibly have as good a season as last year, but I think the girls know that they are going to have to work hard to prove they can.
"This team will not have a lot of individual standouts, but they are committed to playing as a team and sacrificing individual rewards for their overall team's success."
The Lady Bulldogs have several key returning players off last year's state playoff squad - senior first baseman Kaitlin Overstreet, senior catcher/second baseman Kara Johnson, senior second baseman/outfielder Hope Matthews, junior pitcher/outfielder Katie Ferrell, junior shortstop MeQuilla Franklin and senior pitcher/utility player Stephanie Scaffe.
Overstreet was a first-team selection on the Citizen's All-Area Softball Team last season. She hit .401 for the Lady Bulldogs with a team-high 20 extra-base hits and 16 RBIs.
"We are going to miss all of our seniors from last year," Hamilton said. "They were a solid group of girls. I know that we can't replace them, but I do feel that we have people capable of stepping in and we're working hard to compete in the region.
"I feel that our strength will be in the versatility of our team. We can play just about everyone at three positions. We will be able to switch things up a bit from game to game. I also feel that we gained a lot of experience last year in the postseason. The girls know what to expect from teams and what they can produce when they work hard in the off-season."
Hamilton is also looking for good things from Katelyn Baker and Cidney Scoggins.
"Katelyn Baker played varsity last year and is only a sophomore, but she will make an impact this year," Hamilton said. "Cidney Scoggins is also a returner who played JV last year and is ready to step into a varsity spot and produce both in the outfield and the infield."
The Lady Bulldogs will tune up for Region 8-AAAA South play, which starts Aug. 26, with two games on Monday and Tuesday. Rockdale hosts Apalachee, a newcomer to Region 8-AAAA this season, on Monday at the Earl O'Neal Sports Complex. The Lady Bulldogs will also face Southwest DeKalb on Tuesday.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at email@example.com.