Greenbrier, Evans renew region softball rivalry

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One of the area's best softball rivalries is going to have a little more kick this season.

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Greenbrier's Savanah Coon (left) and Evans' Kayla Cates will be counted on to supply senior leadership on the softball field.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Greenbrier's Savanah Coon (left) and Evans' Kayla Cates will be counted on to supply senior leadership on the softball field.

TEAM PAGE: Evans Knights

Greenbrier and Evans, two of the state's top programs, will compete in the same region for the first time since 2008 because of Georgia High School Association realignment.

Greenbrier is moving down in class after spending the past two seasons in Class AAAAA and will join its Columbia County rivals in subregion 2B-AAAA.

Though Evans and Greenbrier continued playing a nonregion home-and-home series, having the two squads battling for a region title is expected to add intensity to an already heated rivalry.

"It's always a fun game," Greenbrier coach Garrett Black said. "When you throw the region aspect into it, it's even better."

Greenbrier and Evans, both of which reached the Elite Eight last year, meet twice again this season: first at Evans on Aug. 31, then at Greenbrier on Sept. 21.

"(The Wolfpack) will always be a rival whether they're in our region or not. But I'm glad they're back," Evans coach Colette Cassedy said. "It's going to make the region tougher for us."

Lakeside also joins the subregion, chasing its first winning season since 2006.

Evans claimed back-to-back Region 3-AAAA titles with the Wolfpack out of the fold. Greenbrier has won a region title each year since the school opened in 1996.

Entering Friday's season opener, the Knights face more challenges than simply overtaking Greenbrier. The young team must replace pitcher Jenny Shepherd, an All-State selection and 2008 Class AAAA player of the year.

"In the past, everyone depended on Jenny. She led the way," Cassedy said. "This year, there isn't one standout player. They're depending on each other, and everyone has to pull their own weight."

Junior Brooke Sarver, who gained valuable experience when Shepherd was sidelined for a large portion of last season, steps into the role of Evans' ace and will start at South Gwinnett on Friday.

Graduation hit Greenbrier hard as well. The Wolfpack lost first-team All-State shortstop Kaila Hunt and pitcher Katie Tracy and will lean heavily on underclassmen.

"We're going to be young," Black said. "It's going to be about midseason before we know where we're going with this lineup."

Greenbrier begins its season Wednesday against Winder-Barrow in the Madison County Leadoff Classic.

In Class AAA, Thomson, which reached the Elite Eight last season, is believed to be the favorite to win the new Augusta region, 3-AAA.

Thomson might get a test from Harlem, which reached the playoffs a year ago, finishing with a 16-14 record.

Screven County returns all of its starters from its 2009 Class AA Elite Eight team. The Gamecocks breezed through the 2009 regular season with only one loss and were ranked as high as No. 2 in the state.

Coach Billy Pollock says his team is capable of matching that mark.

"We expect to make it back to where we were. We've got the core of our team coming back," Pollock said. "The only challenge is going to be keeping them focused."

Five high school softball players to watch

HANNAH WILSON

School: Thomson Class: Senior Pos.: SS

Highlight: Wilson had a .510 batting average, stole 37 bases and was first team All-State in 2009. She could be a Class AAA player-of-the-year candidate.

TOREE GADDY

School: Westside Class: Junior Pos.: SS

Highlight: One of the area's slickest defensive players, Gaddy was named Region 3-AAAA player of the year as a sophomore last season.

SAVANAH COON

School: Greenbrier Class: Senior Pos.: P/OF

Highlight: As a junior, Coon hit .351. She will anchor the pitching staff.

TIFFANIE BURNS

School: Screven County Class: Senior Pos.: SS/2B

Highlight: A co-player of the year in Region 3-AA, Burns hit .437 for a team that lost only once during the regular season.

KAYLA CATES

School: Evans Class: Senior Pos.: C

Highlight: One of only two seniors in the Knights lineup, Cates will be in charge of leading a young pitching staff.

Report results

The Augusta Chronicle encourages softball coaches to report their game results.

Coaches are asked to call (706) 823-3349 after each game. Please include score by innings, pitching and leading hitters.

A weekly notebook and player of the week for fall sports will begin Aug. 31. To submit nominations and information, call Staff Writer Joey Jones at (706) 823-3425 or e-mail him at joey.jones@augustachronicle.com.

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Cross Creek 5 Lakeside 4

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