Bradwell Institute will open its softball season at the Warrior Blast Tournament next weekend at the Tattnall County Recreation Department’s softball fields in Reidsville.
The tournament starts Friday and also features Liberty County and Long County.
This year, the Lady Tigers will be junior and freshman heavy but many got lots of play last year on the varsity squad.
The two lone seniors this season are Tamia Johnson and Mae-kayla Linville. Linville played softball her freshman year and opted to play soccer the following two seasons. Lady Tiger softball coach Sharyl Eastlake said she is happy to have Linville back on the diamond.
Returning juniors are Mya Gilliard, Kaylynn Jewell, Paige Streeper, Deanna Watford and Candace Willis. Sophomores who return with varsity experience include Alexus Chavis, Sarah Hause, Danielle Hennessee and Josephine Satele.
“We have a pretty young team,” Eastlake said, adding that they are still working on developing the pitching and catching rotation.
Mackenzie Stewart, the Lady Tigers main pitcher last year, graduated. Eastlake said it will be up to her juniors and sophomores to step up in fill in the new pitching rotation.
Satele, a sophomore, is stepping up for the challenge Eastlake said, as is Hennessee, who pitched for the JV squad last year.
Eastlake said the players worked together over the summer.
“This year, we have a tight team and we have actually done some team bonding,” Eastlake said. “We played games together. We went bowling together. … There is no one leader on the team, they are all leaders. This summer, the girls came out for conditioning three days a week. We worked on specific skills like bunting. … And that has helped. I think that has also helped with camaraderie.”
The coach said that after each practice they announce who will lead the following day’s practice.
“So everybody gets their chance. I like it. … And everybody has stepped up to the plate and taken a leadership role, regardless of age,” she said.
The Lady Tigers also played two summer games against McIntosh County Academy.
“We went to McIntosh and they came to us,” Eastlake said. “We lost one of the games 10-9, the other game was 8-2. But it was great practice, especially for the younger girls.”
Johnson, the Lady Tiger senior third baseman noted that this year’s squad feels like family.
“I’ve been on varsity since I was a freshman,” she said, adding the Eastlakes always make them feel like family. “We get along with each other. … We’ve gotten better about being cohesive... We’ve been around each other more often and have started getting used to each other.”
Johnson said she’s played softball since she was 4 and that she prefers playing third base.
“Everybody says it is the hot seat and I want to be in the hot seat and be challenged. … I love that spot,” she said. “I definitely want to play for a college team and if I had the choice it would be third base, but I can play every spot and as long as I’ve been here.”
Johnson dreams of playing for the University of Georgia and said she has received calls from Gwinnett College in Atlanta.
“If I can get a full ride that would be nice, and I would be open to it,” she said.
This year, the Lady Tigers are in Region 2-AAAAAA with Brunswick, Effingham County, Glynn Academy and Richmond Hill.
“It’s not that much different. … It is still competitive,” Eastlake said. “It is going to be a challenge.”
Johnson agreed, adding they’ve played these teams in the past few seasons and the girls play travel ball together.
“It’s going to be a tough region,” Johnson said.
Last year, the Tigers went 3-18 overall and 0-8 in Region 3-AAAAA.
Friday, the Lady Tigers will take Bryan County at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, they play Tattnall County at 10 a.m. and Wheeler County at 11:30 a.m.
Lady Tiger roster