Lady Indians look to make another 'pitch' for state run
by Doug Gorman
East Coweta's softball team might be rebuilding in several key areas this year, but the goal remains the same - namely a return trip to Columbus and the Elite 8 tournament.
The Lady Indians program has been a regular visitor to the Elite 8 at the South Commons softball complex for the last eight years.
A year ago, the Lady Indians returned trip to double-elimination tournament ended with losses to Cobb County powers Lassiter and Kennesaw Mountain.
Last year's accolades also included winning the Region 3-AAAAAA title and finishing 33-5-2.
This year, the squad reloads at pitcher with the loss of four-year starter Megan Chocallo, who heads to Towson University after a senior year where she was named the Newnan Times-Herald's Pitcher of the Year while compiling a 24-4 record, a 1.74 ERA and 201 strikeouts.
'In fast-pitch softball, they are all important, but in this sport, there is not a position more important than pitcher,' East Coweta head coach Franklin Deloach said. 'We lose a pitcher that has been with us for four years, and is the winningest pitcher we have ever had. So we have some holes to fill.'
A trio of sophomores - Morgan Goree, Kaylan Wall and Kayla Vincent - are the top candidates to step into the vacancy on the pitching circle.
'There are going to be thrown into the frying pan pretty fast,' Deloach said 'They are going to have to grow up quick. They are going to have to pound the strike zone and get ahead of the hitters early.'
Whoever steps into the pitching circle will have the luxury of pitching to senior catcher Reba Jones.
Jones earned All-County honors last year after hitting .310 with 22 RBIs. From a defensive standpoint, she finished with 22 assists.
'I am just going to be out there and try to help them the best I can,' Jones said. 'We have a good team this year, and our goal is to get back to the Elite 8, and maybe go further than last year.'
Deloach realizes there will be a maturation process with his pitchers.
'We may not get 10 strikeouts a game,' he said. 'We feel like if we can get them to throw a ground ball, we can put a pretty good defense behind them.'
It is led by one of the best middle infields in the state with senior second baseman Kia Smith and junior shortstop Shemiah Sanchez both returning from All-County performances.
'They are as good as it gets up the middle,' Deloach said.
Sanchez spent the summer playing for the Puerto Rican National Team and hit .356 with 31 stolen bases. Last fall for East Coweta she batted .464 average with 35 RBIs.
'It's good to know she is out there,' Smith said of Sanchez. 'We sort of feed off of her.'
Junior Lauren Liebe is one of the Lady Indians' most versatile players, with the ability to play just about anywhere in the infield. This season she is expected to begin the year as the Lady Indians' starting third baseman.
Power-hitting sophomore Maggie Morrow, who showcased flashes of her potential as a freshman, will begin the year at first base while another talented 10th grader, Mekhia Freeman, returns to center field following an All-County season in 2012 where she hit .400 with 32 runs scored and 19 stolen bases.
Deloach is hoping junior Katie Lynch can overcome an injury to play one of the other outfield spots.
Bailey Schmieder is also expected to get one of the starting spots in the outfield.
Hailey Baswell , Gabby Freed and Graceland Newmon are also expected to be key utility players for the Lady Indians.
'I think we have the potential to be better in the last half than in the first half,' Deloach said.
Deloach expects the Region 3-AAAAAA championship again to come down to a battle between his lineup and rival Newnan.
To open the season, the Lady Indians host part of the Georgia Dugout Club's second annual Leadoff Classic Tournament starting Aug. 17, playing a doubleheader against Ola, and single games against Forsyth Central and Whitewater during the first week of the regular season.
The Lady Indians are also scheduled to play in the Brookwood Invitational during the month of September.
'We need to play against some bigger schools,' he said. We have several games against non-region opponents the same week we have region games. That good competition will help us down the stretch.'