The year 2020 took a toll on just about everyone and the sports world was no exception. The Long County Lady Blue Tide softball team partially took a back seat to the Covid-19 pandemic last year, but head coach Dave Madray is confident that they will get back on track for the 2021 season.
The Lady Tide worked over the summer, while battling the weather, so Madray is sure that his team will be ready to roll as the season gets underway. He was happy to finally work in their batting cages, which were upgraded with artificial grass over the winter.
“We worked all summer. It was a little challenging with the heat and the rain,” he said. “But the summer went well and the girls worked hard...Of course some opportunities to work on defensive aspects of the game and utilize our hitting facility...That proved to be very worthwhile. It was much more efficient there. All in all a pretty good summer.”
The softball team also made a key addition to their coaching staff this year with the hiring of former Blue Tide softball star pitcher Harley Dawson. Dawson graduated from Long County in 2016 and played four years of college softball at Columbus State University and Madray said they are “very excited” to have her on staff.
“(Dawson) brings a lot of knowledge to the game and she’s a hometown hero,” Madray said. “A lot of the folks here look up to her in the softball community as a softball player and I’m excited to see what she’s going to be able to do as a coach. So far, we’ve turned over a lot of the pitching responsibilities to her.”
The Lady Tide are going to have to contend with losing some talented players from the class of 2021. One player in particular the Tide will have to replace is Trista Murphy, the four-year pitcher who handled the majority of the pitching when she was in high school, who has now moved on to college at Fort Valley State University.
Madray said their plan to replace Murphy is “team-minded” because it is overall “hard to replace her with just one person.”
“It’s really hard to replace a player like Trista Murphy,” he said. “She was a dominant pitcher. She was an outstanding defensive player, but really didn’t get to play much as far as position because we needed her to pitch. She was our number three batter and carried us with average and power...We are going to work together as a pitching staff to accomplish our pitching responsibilities and just looking for some of our players with some experience to step up.”
The 2020 softball season had a wild ending as the region schedule was cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Madray hopes to just be able to “get through a complete GHSA season without all of the Covid restrictions and guidelines weighing us down.” As far as expectations, he wants to compete and get back to the playoffs.
“We certainly wanna win,” he said. “We want to be a competitor in this tough region that we’re in. We’ve got some really strong softball teams in this region. Just getting out of the region and into the bracket is very challenging, but that is a goal of ours: to get through this region and come out of it, continuing in the postseason with an opportunity to play in the state tournament.”
After making the state playoffs in 2018 and 2019, the Lady Tide fell just short of making a third straight appearance in the postseason in 2020. They look to get back there in 2021 with the regular season swinging into action on Friday, August 6 with a season-opening tournament in Tattnall County against Claxton and Johnson County.
The Tide host their first game against McIntosh County Academy on Thursday, August 12.