The Bradwell Institute Lady Tigers are using the summer to strengthen their bodies and prepare for the 2011-12 fall season of softball. Conditioning started June 11 and players are working hard to make another bid at the state playoffs.
Last season, coach Sharyl Eastlake and the girls finished 11-11 overall and 8-4 in Region 3-AAAAA. They made it to the first round of the state playoffs against Tift County but were eliminated after two games.
Eastlake said approximately 28 girls have been attending summer conditioning.
“And I would like to keep 22-23,” she said. “We’ve been hitting every other day, and this year, I didn’t let the rain stop us. If it’s raining we go inside and run, throw and hit whiffle balls, so we are making every moment of conditioning count.”
In addition to running and hitting, workouts emphasize getting stronger. Eastlake has players doing lunges while carrying water-filled jugs and combines that with arm training and push-ups during circuit routines.
There’s plenty of senior leadership to help get players used to the hard work, she said.
“We are strong with seniors this year,” she said. “Rachel Ray, Karson Rogers, Candace Blair, Barbara Rego and Taylor Reese came back out this year, so we are going to have a strong set of girls that have been playing since they were eighth-graders.
But we are also strong with juniors as well. As of now, I don’t see any freshmen that will be on the varsity team — it will all be 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders, which is pretty exciting.”
The coach said her focus this season primarily is on offense.
“My goal is to have two runs on the board by the first inning,” she said.
Defensively, the Lady Tigers have both depth and experience in key spots. Returning seniors Rego and Rogers are back to pitch and Eastlake said she has seen promise from underclassmen Sarah Wells and Katie Love.
Behind the plate is Reese, who sat out last season but has played the position before, and Jessica Puckett, who caught as a freshman on the varsity squad last year.
The coach said Kasey Smith is starting to emerge as a good hitter and most of her players can handle other positions.
Opponents include traditionally strong Camden County, but Eastlake has her eye on another region foe.
“I do want to beat Jenkins,” she said. “For some reason when we pull up at Jenkins, the girls’ faces just change and it’s like they are defeated before we even get on the field. And Jenkins is beatable — we’ve beat them before in the past — but for the past two years, they get us in every game. But I think these girls will have a different kind of attitude.”
Eastlake also said she told her players never to underestimate an opponent like they did last year when they played Liberty County High School at the Warriors Blast.
“The last time we played them, they whipped us, 18-1, and the girls have since kicked themselves for underestimating them,” Eastlake said.
The season opens Aug. 13 when Liberty and Bradwell face off at Lady Tigers Field. Unlike last year’s scrimmage, this game will count.
Eastlake said the Lady Tigers are ready for the challenge.
“The girls that have been here before are all excited about state,” she said. “And it’s a good thing when you start the year already talking about state. They know they can go to state and they know they can do well.”