East Hall High softball coach Josh Joiner believes his program has high expectations. It starts with trying to earn a Region 7-3A championship this week.
“I think what makes us special is that we have the desire to be the best,” said Joiner, whose team will face Lumpkin County on Wednesday in the tournament semifinals at East Hall in Gainesville. “I preach to them to be excellent in everything they do. I think that’s what separates us — we give our all in practice, region games and non-region games.”
As a result of a top-two seed and first-round tournament bye, East Hall has already assured itself a top-four finish and guaranteed itself a playoff berth.
However, the Lady Vikings are aiming higher. They don’t want to settle for squeaking into the postseason and having to go on the road for the opening round.
The reasons for wanting the region championship are clear. East Hall strives to repeat after winning its first region crown in program history in 2016. Also, earning the region championship would allow the Lady Vikings to stay at home for the first two rounds of the postseason, should they advance that far.
This season, East Hall (16-9, 10-2 region) also has a little unfinished business. Last year, the Lady Vikings were swept in the second round of the playoffs by Cook in Gainesville, dashing its hopes of a trip to Columbus for the state championship weekend.
This year, Lady Vikings senior pitcher Steffanie Redmon wants to get things started on the right foot with claiming the No. 1 playoff seed out of the region.
“We want it bad,” said Redmon, who leads East Hall with a .444 batting average, five home runs and 27 RBIs. “We worked toward this all season, to go back. It would show teams to not underestimate us.”
Her teammate Macy Banks, a sophomore who is hitting .400 this season with four homers and 22 RBIs while pacing East Hall in the circle with a 12-4 record, feels the same way.
“Right now people think of East Hall as a basketball school.” Banks said. “It would prove we are good and teams should be scared to play us.”
Even though the Lady Vikings fell short of expectations in 2016, they did set a precedent of being be a tough out for whomever they play.
“Before, it was just, ‘Oh, we’re playing East Hall,’” Joiner said. “Now it’s, ‘We’re playing the defending region champions.'”
Before concerning itself with the playoffs, East Hall knows it will be tough to jostle away a top spot against North Hall and Greater Atlanta Christian, among others, in Region 7-3A.
During the regular season, the Lady Vikings split two games against the Lady Trojans.
“Anybody that goes to region is good competition. We had to battle every team in our region,” Joiner said. “A lot of teams in our region know how to fight hard.”
The softball state tournament opens with a doubleheader in a best-of-three series Oct. 11. Should a first-day split occur, the deciding Game 3 would be the following day.
The third and fourth seed from each region tournament will have to go on the road for the opening round.
In other area region tournament action, Flowery Branch will face 10-time defending state champion Buford in the second round of the Region 8-5A tournament today. In Class 6A, Gainesville visits Winder-Barrow.