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Softball season gets going next week

It’s high school softball season and the three local teams have jam-packed schedules as games begin today.

Heritage will begin life without five of its finest players when the Patriots open the season this weekend in the South Gwinnett Tournament. Pitcher Kierra Camp, a two-time all-state member who is now at Georgia Southern, 2013 Region 8-AAAAA player of the year Carri Wilkerson, infielders Diamond Callwood (now at King University) and Taylor Moser, along with starting catcher Heidi Shepherd all graduated off a team that a year ago won the program’s first region championship since 2001.

The cupboard isn’t completely bare, though, as junior pitcher Kamryn Toney should be able to fill the ace pitcher void left by Camp, and sophomore infielder Addy Allegretti is a rising star.

“The five that graduated last season will be hard to replace. They really bought in to what I wanted our team to accomplish in my first two seasons,” said Patriots coach Jason McBay. “We cannot replace them…but what we must do is find ways to replace their productivity. I have complete faith that this year’s team will rise to the occasion. These girls believe in the system and their common love for the game. The absence of five former teammates will not ruin the opportunity that lies before them.”

Rockdale will also have the unenviable task of trying to replace a standout as shortstop and leadoff hitter India Davis graduated from last season’s Class AAAAAA state playoff team.

With Davis now at Southeast Missouri State, the Bulldogs, who open the season at Salem on August 12, will be led by senior first baseman Kelsey Stewart and sophomore Sydney Driver, who could see time in both the infield and on the mound. After a seven-game non-region slate, which includes a pair of games against Salem, Rockdale opens Region 2-AAAAAA play at home against Lakeside-DeKalb on September 2.

There’s a solid core of talent in the dugout at Salem, along with a new skipper. Bobby Link, who has a long history on the baseball field, begins his first season as softball coach when the Seminoles open against Rockdale.

Link, who opens his first season as Salem’s baseball coach next spring, will look to senior catcher Peyton Mitchell to try and lead the Seminoles back to the state playoffs for the second time in three years. The Seminoles will also have the sophomore duo of Kennedy Lester and Mariah Briney, both infielders, who provide two pieces of a promising future for the Conyers school.