West Hall High softball coach Warren Sellers likened this season to a roller coaster ride.
And he was right.
The Spartans ended their year with a 20-14 overall record and gained their sixth consecutive Class AAA state playoff berth, but there were lot of ups and downs in what Sellers called, "a strange year."
West Hall opened the season with an 8-0 loss to Banks County, but rocketed to a 9-2 record midway through the season with the help of a four and a five-game win streak.
"Our first game scared everybody," senior catcher Bailey Soucie said.
"I was very worried about our team. But then we came out and won. It was a crazy turnaround."
The Spartans then lost eight of their next 11 games putting them at 12-10.
"There were some bumps in the road," Sellers said. "There were some times I thought we were a million miles away from (where we wanted to be)."
And the team shared Sellers’ sentiments.
"We were worried," third-year starting pitcher Emily Hammond said. "We knew we wanted to win, but sometimes it just didn’t happen."
After the losses, the Spartans regrouped and again launched a major offensive, winning their next six contests to end the regular season at 18-10, 10-2 in Region 7-AAA, which secured a third seed in the region tournament.
West Hall started off strong in postseason play, defeating the two region teams that had previously beaten the Spartans in the regular season: Flowery Branch and West Forsyth.
"It felt good to avenge those losses," Sellers said.
But West Hall saw an end to its region title contention in the third round of the 7-AAA playoffs after a 1-0 loss to the top-seed Creekview and 4-3 loss to White County on Oct. 8.
The win against West Forsyth, however, secured the Spartans an appearance in the state playoffs, which was the seventh in Sellers’ nine seasons.
"When we got to state it felt so good," Hammond said. "We reached our goal. That’s what we were playing for."
Two losses to Heritage-Catoosa (5-1, 7-4) ended the Spartans’ season on Oct. 13 in the first round of the playoffs.
"We were one out away from a third game," Sellers said. "We had a 4-1 lead and they rallied and then beat us in extra innings. It was a tough loss. But combined with the youth and inexperience of our team this year, (getting to the state playoffs) was quite an accomplishment."
In a year that saw many twists and turns, the players continued to look to Sellers and for his efforts, he’s The Times 2009 Softball Coach of the Year.
"He coaches us about everything and he knows how to build our confidence when it’s down," Hammond said. "But when we play bad he knows how to tell us we played bad."
"He’s more of a role model than a coach," Soucie added. "He said that pressure is when you’re expected to do something without being prepared for it, and he prepared us for the entire season so there was no pressure on us."
As is the case most times, Sellers was always looking out for his team.
"Coming into this season we had more question marks than we’ve had since our first year playing fast-pitch softball." Sellers said. "We had two outfield spots open and our first baseman graduated. At the start of the year we had no idea who was going to take those positions."
"But our seniors stepped up and led, and our young girls grew up, and that was fun to watch."