Last year, Bradwell Institute’s softball team reached new heights. They advanced to the state playoffs for the first time in school fast-pitch history and were the only team from Region 3-AAAAA to record a playoff win.
Incoming coach Sharyl Eastlake wants to prove that last year was not a fluke.
“Several of our girls have had experience at the playoffs and tasted that caliber of ball,” she said. “So, hopefully they are thirsty for the wins.”
Bradwell athletic director Jim Walsh Jr. is confident Eastlake, who was an assistant on last year’s team, will perform well.
“She was an important part of the program last year and I feel like we will be in great shape,” Walsh said. “She knows what we want in our softball program and she’s willing to get it done. She’s excited. I’m excited and the girls are excited. I’m looking forward to the softball season.”
Eastlake was hired to replace outgoing coach Tim Stevens, who resigned for personal reasons.
“I left the program in better shape than I found it,” Stevens said. “They should be in good position for another playoff run.”
A playoff run, however, will be difficult for the Tigers.
Bradwell loses ace pitcher and three-time Hinesville Officials Association player of the year Jenny Tart to graduation as well as catcher and heavy hitter Kristi Mullis, first baseman Melissa Wells and centerfielder Ikamyia Richardson.
“I am going to miss those girls but I think it gives the younger girls an opportunity to step up and be leaders,” Eastlake said “Most of these girls are sophomores and have to step up.”
A projected starting nine has five sophomores, two juniors, a freshman and a senior.
Eastlake said 59 girls signed up to play, with several being rising freshman.
“I went to every middle school and passed out forms, then I called up the girls and we talked and I encouraged them to give it a shot,” she said. “Many of them play rec ball and I watched them play and some are very talented.”
To get a head start on the season, which starts in mid-August, the Lady Tigers are having volunteer practices in the summer. Eastlake said they will practice twice a week in June and July with two weeks off.
“We are a young team but with this work I think we will be successful,” she said. “Hopefully, it will prove fruitful for us and we will go a long way.”
Eastlake is excited and said she couldn’t wait for the first day of practice, which was Wednesday.
“I had butterflies and I am extremely excited to coach,” she said.
She wasn’t the only one nervous.
“So many of the kids were nervous and I told them to relax and be comfortable,” she said. “That’s what we’re out here for is to relax and learn.”
“I’m looking forward to the summer and getting the girls ready so the first game is something to look forward to and we’re ready, not nervous and there’s no apprehension.”
Eastlake won’t coach the Lady Tigers alone.
Assisting her, will be her husband of 25 years Jeff.
“He’s my right-hand man in every way,” she said. “I have learned a lot from him. We have so much time to talk about plans, strategies and the girls. It’s so helpful to be with him and we lean on each other.”
Area softball fans know the Eastlake name because their daughter Misty was a star at Liberty County High School. Currently, she is at Valdosta State University.
It was Misty who got the Eastlakes involved in softball eight years ago.
Misty played for the Liberty County Recreation Department when she was 12 and the next year, the Eastlakes coached their daughter. They have been involved in softball since.
Sharyl Eastlake teaches eighth grade science at Snelson-Golden Middle School.