Despite key losses, Lady Cougars have plenty of options with lineup
by Chris Goltermann
(Editor’s Note: The following is the first of a series of stories previewing the 2014 softball season in Coweta County. Coming Friday: East Coweta)
There’s two ways one can look at Newnan High’s outlook heading into the 2014 season. The first includes trying to desperately fill two vacancies left by team MVPs that dominated the left side of the infield during a trip to the Class AAAAAA Elite 8.
The other, features a roster full of talented players that has created some truly tough decisions to be made by head coach Carrie Gilmore heading into the first month this fall.
“I think this is the longest decisions we have had to make at this point in the season,” Gilmore said. “There are three or four girls that could play shortstop and the same girls could play second base. I think it helps with competition. They know ‘if I want to play, I need to hit.’”
The good news is there’s enough talent throughout the lineup to match last year’s 25 victories even after losing a group of five seniors. Gilmore expects every player to see action in Friday’s scrimmage against Whitewater at home in what may be as much an audition for starting jobs throughout the lineup.
The Lady Cougars may be the strongest team locally up the middle between returning seniors Tori Loveless and Arden Jobe, who return on the mound and behind the plate as Newnan’s main battery. Both are coming off All County seasons, with Loveless posting a 21-8 pitching record to go with an ERA of 1.69 along with 75 strikeouts.
“She works so hard and she’s just a wonderful athlete,” Gilmore said of Loveless. “I see her as a team leader, doing the right things and saying the right things.”
Jobe batted .385 in 2013 with 40 extra-base hits and 21 RBIs.
“Their chemistry is so good and they work really well together,” Gilmore said of her starting pitcher and catcher. “I don’t want to mess with that.”
Depth at pitcher is as much a plus, with Loveless joined by newcomer Addie Andrews, who went 4-1 with a 1.12 ERA in six games on a successful JV squad last season.
“She’s going to be our No. 2 pitcher and there will be times when Tori needs a break,” Gilmore said of Andrews.
A group of at least four seniors — led by Loveless and Jobe — will be counted on heavily to make up for huge losses in the lineup, especially among the offense and leadership. Team MVP Chaycie Goggins, who signed with Georgia last November, was a sparkplug both at the plate and at shortstop. Beside her at third base, Lindsay Stewart, helped the team rolling through her absence en route to Newnan Times Herald MVP honors. Together, the pair combined for 53 RBIs last season.
“Those two are big losses,” Gilmore admitted, “especially Lindsay in the dugout as someone who was a vocal leader.” Along with Loveless, Jobe and Allen, Lauren Ferguson returns for her senior year after playing all 34 games and batting .287 with 18 RBIs as an outfielder.
The Lady Cougars, however, equally received a boost from a strong group of underclassmen en route to a berth in the Class AAAAAA Elite 8. Sophomore Hannah Scarbrough immediately jumped in for Goggins at shortstop, but her abilities as a top outfielder are giving Newnan’s head coach even more choices in building the lineup.
Junior Maysen Willard batted .321 with 14 doubles in 2013 on the varsity as an All-County selection while sophomore Leslie Davis was one of Newnan’s hottest hitters come playoff time last season as a ninth grader while finishing with a slugging percentage of .513.
“She’s got a lot of power,” said Gilmore, who has been giving Davis, a catcher last year, looks at first base.
Moving up from the junior varsity, junior Jamia Berry may be able to add some power to the lineup as well while in contention for time at either middle infield position. She batted .421 over eight JV games