Each of the five schools nearly headed their separate ways in region play, with the lone exception being New Manchester and Lithia Springs, who remained together, even though the Lady Jags were only in their second varsity season.
Chapel Hill High School made the most of the changes despite an early diagnosis of being in a rebuilding year. The Lady Panthers would have none of that talk and really turned up their play in the 4-AAA region to grab a second seed, and host the first round of the state tourney.
“We continued to improve throughout the year and I could see our confidence grow every day,” said CHHS coach Mick Harper. “We had some solid players at the beginning of the year but they were a little nervous, a little scared, but they came together and felt like they could beat anyone.”
Behind the arm of Darby Demarest and the bat of what seemed to be a new girl every night, Chapel Hill took down Southeast Bullock in a best-of-3 game series in round one of State.
“We stepped up against one of the best pitcher we have seen all season,” Harper said.
In the third game of the series, down 1-0 in the fifth inning, freshman Shelby Robinson stepped up and hit a game tying double that Harper says was “huge for us.” The Lady Panthers took the lead i the game and Demarest was able to close it out as the Lady Panthers advanced.
In the second round, Chapel Hill made quick work of Dodge County, sweeping them in two games without giving up a run to make it to the Elite-8 Tourney.
After having passed nearly all expectations that laid before them in the 2012 season, the Lady Panthers ran into a road block in the Elite-8, and that road block was Buford. The Wolfpack and Lady Wolfpack teams are possible state champions nearly every time they take the field at the beginning of the season, regardless of the sport. This team was no exception as they would win it all this season while allowing only one total run in the tourney.
However, Chapel Hill played them close and gave their best in a hard fought loss. The Lady Panthers went on to fall to Ringgold and would finish sixth overall in AAA. Not a bad performance for a bunch of young girls in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year.
Because of their success on the diamond, the Lady Panther softball team has been named the Douglas County Sentinel All-County Team of the Year. Their coach, who took a bunch of young girls and managed to squeeze every last once of talent out of them, receives the Coach of the Year honor.
Demarest, who posted a 2.47 ERA in nearly double the amount of innings pitched than anyone else in the county (198) took home the Pitcher of the Year honor. She finished the season with a 19-11 record, struck out over 200 batters, and also picked up three saves.
“I was uncertain of her at the beginning of the season but she improved over one year more than any other player I have ever had,” Harper said. “She grew into a quiet leader, showed maturity and confidence, while also showing an ability to get out of tough situations. The way she handled herself was a big factor.”
Chapel Hill was not the only success story of the season. Alexander also had a good year, before bowing out in the first round of the playoffs. The Cougars put up good numbers at the plate and on the mound behind players such as Sydnee Council and Nikki Miller.
Alexander grabbed a No. 2 seed in the 5-AAAA region after finishing runner-up to Carrollton and also hosted a first round state playoff game.
However the Lady Cougars went cold at the same time their opponent, Lumpkin County, got hot, and Lumpkin managed to eliminated Alexander and eventually went on to compete in the Elite-8 tournament.
Despite the loss, AHS had many breakout performances.
Council dominated both on the mound and at the plate for the Lady Cougars. She posted the best ERA in the county at 1.91 in 102 innings pitched. She also hit a county best .429 at the plate, over 50 points higher than the nearest competitor. She knocked in 23 runs, scored 26 times and had a .653 slugging percentage. For her domination both at the plate and on the mound, Council receives the highest individual award, DCS Player of the Year.
“I called her my little bulldog,” said AHS coach Zack Graham. “She get out there and is a competitor. She doesn’t like to lose and leaves it all out there on the field.“
Both Demarest and Council are sophomores with long high school careers still ahead of them.
Council was not the only one to have a stellar season at the plate for AHS. Miller was right behind her nearly every day and out-performed her in a few of the power categories. Miller led everyone in the county with six home runs, while picking up 29 RBI’s and scoring 28 times. Her power did not hurt her ability to make contact with the ball either. She posted a .349 batting average.
For her ability to combine both average and power, Miller was named the DCS All-County Offensive Player of the Year.
“She is a hitter, but also is one of the best fielders we have on the team,” Graham said of his second baseman. “She was outstanding in just about every ballgame. She was a captain, and a quiet leader.”
Alexander and Chapel Hill’s dominance of the DCS All-County Team did not stop at just the top awards. They also took every First Team selection and nearly every Second Team honor.
Provided is a list of all First Team and Second Team nominations along with a few Honorable Mentions. Stats have been provided for First Team members.
SOFTBALL ALL-COUNTY TEAM
TEAM OF THE YEAR
COACH OF THE YEAR
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Allie Hinchman (AHS)
.343 AVG, 2 HR, 24 RBI, 23 R
Hallie Rutledge (CHHS)
.333 AVG, 21 RBI, 22 R
Jordan Hawthorne (CHHS)
.349 AVG, 27 RBI, 31 R, 10 SB
Kayley Barker (CHHS)
.328 AVG, 29 RBI, 31 R, 16 SB
Hannah Austin (CHHS)
.388 AVG, 14 RBI, 33 R, 23 SB
Shelby Robinson (CHHS)
.375 AVG, 21 R, 27 SB
Rachel Tenney (AHS)
.343 AVG, 17 RBI, 25 R
Sierra Smith (CHHS)
Josie Nunn (AHS)
Kelsey Crook (CHHS)
Emily Harmon (DCHS)
Danielle Cabarubio (LSHS)
Trinity Kirkland (AHS)
Briana Tucker (LSHS)
Hayley Houser (DCHS)
Amari Lawson, Taiylar Hibbard, Ankika Carter (NMHS); Kaila Hans, Emily Jackson, Charlotte Tuggle (DCHS); Ashley Bartlett, Alexis Lackey, Alexa Walker (LSHS)