CONYERS- Nearly everything is brand new for the Rockdale softball program.
New coach Justin Arrington will skipper his team in its Region 8-AAAA South opener against Monroe Area, today, when Rockdale will christen its new softball field.
Today's game will be the first played at Rockdale High School after years of playing home games at the Earl O'Neal Sports Complex.
"There's definitely a lot of new stuff going on," Arrington said. "(The players) finally feel like they have a place they can call their own; to be able to have a locker room, really, to have a place that's theirs. It's really exciting."
Arrington also has a reason to be excited about the talent on the field.
Senior hurler Katie Ferrell, who opened the season with a perfect game against Locust Grove, is one of the top pitchers in the region. She's joined by a wealth of veterans in key positions, including senior shortstop Quilla Franklin, senior outfielder Jensen Roberts, senior second baseman Jackie Jenkins and junior third baseman Cidney Scoggins.
"(Ferrell has) been great, she's definitely our go-to girl; any time you call on her you feel like you're going to be in the game," Arrington said. "Between her and Franklin, those two have definitely stepped up and kind of taken the leadership role. It's something you like to see out of your senior class."
It's not all about the upper classmen, though.
Freshman center fielder Candace Johnson is a budding star who started her high school career with a two-triple game against Locust Grove, then made several outstanding catches during the Social Circle tournament.
"Her defense in the tournament was outstanding," Arrington said. "You don't see that too much out of freshmen."
Though the long-awaited first home game happens today, the Bulldogs got off to a good start on the road, getting Ferrell's perfect game in a 14-0 win over first-year school Locust Grove last Thursday. They followed the blow-out win with a first-place finish in the Social Circle Redskin Invitational this past weekend. Arrington is hoping to present the trophy to new principal Georgi Brown before the home opener.
"We're going to present her the first trophy at Rockdale, which is something the girls are looking forward to," Arrington said. "The girls are real excited about it. We're just trying to build on what happened last weekend."
Arrington is optimistic about Rockdale's chances in the region race, naming local rivals Heritage and Salem, along with league powers Loganville and Madison County as its chief competition.
"They're pretty much at the top in every sport; those are the ones we're gunning for," he said. "We knock those guys off, I think we'll be sitting pretty when region tournament rolls around."
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: Rockdale softball
· Coach: Justin Arrington (first season)
· Last year's record: 10-15-1
· Next game: Today vs. Monroe Area, 4:30 p.m.