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2008 Prep softball preview
Natalie Allen gets a hit during Friday’s Gainesville High softball scrimmage. - photo by Tom Reed | The Times

There was unprecedented success in local high school softball in 2007.

Buford won its first state title in softball. White County made it to the state sectionals for the first time in the fast-pitch programs history.

Now both of these programs will try to see if they can repeat that success again with new players in the mix.

In Region 7-AAA, West Hall continued its impressive streak of playoff appearances, while North Hall was left out of the postseason last year for the first time in the past six seasons. Now both the Spartans and Trojans look to continue to compete in a very balanced region.

Meanwhile, Johnson and Chestatee hope to pick their respective programs up after winning two games each last season. Gainesville is also looking to become more competitive under first-year coach Jeremy Kemp.

East Hall and Flowery Branch also attempt to be competitive in a very balanced region with four playoff spots available.

Banks County Leopards

Coach: Josh Lord

2007 record: 9-14

Starters returning: P/IB Kim Thomas (Jr.); 3B Ashley Denton (Jr); C Hayley Baird (Jr.); CF Lauran Taylor (Jr.)

Outlook: Denton brings some offensive power to the Lady Leopards after hitting over .400 with 25 RBIs as a sophomore. ... Taylor is leader of the outfield and hit over .300 last season. ... Lord says they need to build more stability in the outfield to be competitive in Region 8-AA. ... Banks County has pitchers that can locate strikes and keep the ball down.

Buford Lady Wolves

Coach: Tony Wolfe

2007 record: 33-6-1 (Class AA state champions)

Starters returning: SS Whitney Holman (Sr.), OF Brandi Hellumn (Sr.), C Alysha Rudnik (Jr.), IF Chelsie Thomas (So.), P Karly Fullem (So.), P Melissa Dickie (So.)

Outlook: Holman (.358 average, 48 hits) and Rudnik (.380 average, 46 hits) return to lead Buford at the plate this season. ... Fullem and Dickie combined for nine wins as freshman in 2007. ... The Lady Wolves hit .323 as a team during their state title run last season but lost much of the team power including Times 2007 Area Softball Player of the Year Ashley Razey.

Chestatee Lady War Eagles

Coach: Niki Keith

2007 record: 2-26

Dawson County Lady Tigers

Coach: Jimmy Pruett

2007 record: 13-13

Starters returning: C Kayla Grizzle (Sr.), P Sidney Cox (Jr.), SS Sidney Crumley (So.), 2B Katie Pulley (So.), CF Tiffany Rowan (Jr.)

Outlook: Dawson County is going to be very young this season with only two seniors but still will be able to compete in Region 8-AA. ... Pruett says this is going to be a very tough region with North Oconee, East Jackson, and now Jefferson joining the mix. ... The Lady Tigers’ coach says the key to success comes down to playing fundamental softball and avoiding errors.

East Hall Lady Vikings

Coach: Kevin Thomas

2007 record: 10-17-1

Starters returning: 1B Christina White (Sr.), CF Hannah Strickland (Sr.), LF Christina Davis (Sr.)

Outlook: East Hall’s coach is going to count on two young pitchers this season with left-handed sophomore Kayla McDougald and right-handed freshman Victoria Webb. ... McDougald saw time in the pitching circle last season anticipating the need for her to be a leader in 2008.

Flowery Branch Lady Falcons

Coach: Valerie Lancaster

2007 record: 9-19-2

Starters returning: SS Alyssa Jannakos (Sr.), C/P/3B Rachel Duden (So.), 2B Tonya Evans (So.), C/IF Brittany Wheatley (Jr.), P/IF Roxie Dalton (Jr.), OF Kari Winegar (Sr.), P/OF Cally Orr (So.), OF Allison Thornton (Jr.).

Outlook: Flowery Branch’s coach says that Jannakos and Duden will be dual-threats with defensive skill and ability to lead at the plate. ... Lancaster says even with eight returning starters her club is young and still has a lot to learn.

Gainesville Lady Red Elephants

Coach: Jeremy Kemp

2007 record: 5-22

Starters returning: C Chelsey Smith (Sr.), 1B/3B/OF Gracie McGarity (Sr.), RF Emily Windhorst (Sr.), P Caitlyn Ludwig (Sr.), 3B Shakeela Griffin (Sr.), SS Rebecca Lawrence (Jr.), CF Maggie Norton (Jr.), 2B Sarah Hughs (So.)

Outlook: The Lady Red Elephants first-year coach has high expectations for the 2008 season. ... He says play well together and have a good job together so far. ... Kemp says the key is for the pitchers to throw strikes on the pitching circle.

Jackson County Lady Panthers

Coach: Tommy Fountain

2007 record: 3-18

Starters returning: SS/2B Brooke Griggs (So.), 3B Becca Nation (So.), 1B Brittany Simms (So.)

Outlook: Jackson County plays in a very tough Region 8-AAA with the addition of Oconee County, to go along with Morgan County and Eastside. ... Jackson County’s coach says the increase in depth on his roster this season is night and day. ... Fountain says all his returners are good softball players. ... He is looking forward to what freshman Haley Shinall will be able to do in the pitching circle.

Johnson Lady Knights

Coach: Lori Townley

2007 record: 2-25

Starters returning: OF Paige Vaughn (Jr.), C Melissa Turner (So)

North Hall Lady Trojans

Coach: Roger Fannon

2007 record: 15-14-1

Starters returning: SS Hannah Stevens (Sr.), 1B/OF Anna Bower (Sr.), IF/OF Kelsey Gibbs (Jr.), CF Chelsea Clever (Jr.), 2B Mallory Rich (Jr.), P Megan Rogers (Jr.), C Danielle Newbern (So.)

Outlook: North Hall missed the state playoffs last year for the first time in six seasons. ... The Lady Trojans coach is optimistic about getting back in the playoffs this season with a lot of experienced players back this season, including last season’s No. 2 pitcher Rogers.

West Hall Lady Spartans

Coach: Warren Sellers

2007 record: 21-14 (state sectionals)

Starters returning: C Bailey Soucie (Jr.), P Emily Hammond (Jr.), OF Kiley Kirkland (Sr.), 3B Madison Strickland (So.), OF Emily Harper (Sr.), OF/IF Alex Wright (Sr.)

Outlook: Hammond is back to lead the Lady Spartans for her junior season after winning 15 in 2007. ... Soucie led West Hall last year in batting average and RBIs. ... Morgan Strickland, a freshman, will be counted on to help in the starting rotation on the pitching circle. ... “It helps to have our starting pitcher back this season,” Sellers said. “I feel like we’ll be competitive in a balanced Region 7-AAA this season.”

White County Lady Warriors

Coach: John Brown

2007 record: 20-12-1 (State sectionals)

Starters returning: C Krista Woody (Sr.), OF Emma Cummins (Sr.), P/OF Katie Medlock (Sr.), 3B Lindsey Messmore (Jr.), P/OF Stephanie Satterfield (So.)

Outlook: White County advanced to the state sectionals in fast-pitch softball for the first time in school history in 2007. ... Satterfield was a Times All-Area Selection last year as a freshman for the Lady Warriors. ... Brown expects to let more freshman get the chance to start this season.

Information regarding the teams from Jefferson, Chestatee and Habersham Central was not provided.

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