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Athlete of the Week: East Hall's Natalie Winters
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East Hall pitcher Natalie Winters has an uncanny ability to let mistakes and setbacks roll off her shoulders. That laid-back attitude combines with her skill on the mound to make her the Lady Vikings’ ace.

As the No. 1 pitcher for East Hall, Winters has started almost every game for the Lady Vikings. Behind her pitching, East Hall secured the No. 2 seed out of Region 7-AAA and is headed to the state tournament for the first time in school history.

The Lady Vikings defeated North Hall, White County and Banks County before falling to Buford in the finals in last week’s region tournament. Winters pitched in every game.

For her efforts, she is The Times Athlete of the Week.

“It’s a really big opportunity, and it’s an honor to be able to actually go to state and play with this team,” Winters said.

Just two season ago, Winters was a sophomore on the East Hall junior varsity team, leading the team to a championship in a JV tournament. She only got better from there.

“That’s when she really started to develop,” East Hall coach Jenny Crow said. “She was one of the main reasons they won that tournament.”

After the Lady Vikings lost their star pitcher to graduation, Winters had big shoes to fill.

“She basically just stepped up on the mound and did what we asked of her,” Crow said. “Over the past two years, she’s mentally prepared herself for situations like this.”

Winters has strong skills pitching, such as a fastball and an off-speed pitch that she believes will propel her team, but her confidence is another asset that makes her successful.

“Two of our coaches have helped me a lot with confidence and really encouraged me to do my best,” Winters said. “There’s a lot of pressure, but my team picks me up and they help me with my confidence throughout games.”

Crow noted that the team has great chemistry and looks to Winters and catcher Josie Coker to raise their spirits and give them confidence. She believes that East Hall’s mental preparation and confident attitude will be essential to their success in the first round against Cartersville.

“It all comes down to how the girls come out,” Crow said. “In (Region) 5-AAA, they have their top team and everyone else has won and lost against other opponents, so it’s not much different from ours.”

Winters has spent the past week practicing with her team, getting in the right mindset, and resting her arm to get ready for the state tournament. She feels like Game 1 will the biggest hurdle for East Hall to jump because of pressure and lack of experience, but she thinks being at home will help the Lady Vikings immensely.

“The main thing is to get the first game out of the way and win that game,” she said. “That would take off a lot of the pressure.

“There’s a lot of support from the other girls, their parents and the fans that we have, so we’re just taking it one game at a time.”

East Hall plays host to Cartersville in a first-round doubleheader beginning at 5 p.m. tomorrow at East Hall Park in Gainesville.

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