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Local teams prepare for softball season with Lanier Invitational
The Chestatee High School softball team is preparing for the Lanier Point Softball Tournament this weekend. - photo by SARA GUEVARA | The Times

The butterflies will come during pre-game infield on the smoothed dirt.

The feeling of nervousness will reach its climax as the pitcher looks in for the sign while the batter waits, unknowing, inside the newly chalked batters box.

This evening amid the cheers, sounds of cleats on pavement and the smell of popcorn and hot dogs, area softball teams will begin their seasons during the Lanier Point Invitational at Lanier Point Park.

Over the course of the weekend, 16 teams from North Georgia and Metro Atlanta will play upward of five games each on their way to tournament placements and, for one, a championship.

It’s a chance to get rid of those butterflies, possibly build some confidence and definitely make assessments and adjustments before region play begins.

“I have a lot to learn about these girls,” first-year Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said. “I don’t know how they play or where they’re at because I haven’t really seen them yet.

“This tournament provides a great chance to play a lot of games and see a lot of girls in action.”

Gainesville ended the 2007 season with a 5-22 record, and Kemp is anxious to see if his team’s hard work over the summer has paid off.

“We’ve hit it extremely well in scrimmages, and I’m excited to see how we do in a real game,” he said.
For White County coach John Brown, whose team went 21-12-1 in 2007 and placed third in Region 7-AAA, the tournament provides an opportunity to find out who will make it on the varsity level.

“We are taking this tournament to find out who will stay with us and who will go down to junior varsity,” Brown said.

The Warriors are looking for players to fill shortstop and third base, positions lost to graduation.

“We want to win, but we also want our ninth -graders and girls who didn’t play a lot last year to get the opportunity to show what they can do.

“Hopefully we can learn and win.”

The Warriors will be relying on the arm and bat of 2007 All-Area selection Stephanie Satterfield when they take on Commerce in their first game of the tournament at 6:30 tonight.

Satterfield, a sophomore, ended her freshman season as the team’s leading hitter with a .521 batting average and went 8-3 in the circle with a 1.92 ERA.

For teams like Banks County and East Hall, the tournament is not only a good opportunity to get freshmen ingrained in the ways of varsity softball, but also to scout region competition.

Banks County lost seven starters to graduation, including the entire outfield and the shortstop and third base positions.

“Well, we are looking to fill holes with ninth-graders,” said Leopards assistant coach Joe Lord. “We are anxious to see what the young girls can do.”

East Hall’s coach Kevin Thomas is in the same predicament.

“We are a young but very talented team,” Thomas said. “We are looking for our girls to play consistently and be solid this weekend.”

Both coaches say the competition at the Lanier Point Invitational is great year after year and the ability to watch other teams from their respective regions play is advantageous.

“Getting to play against good quality teams like what’s at the (Lanier Point Invitational) shows you what you need to work on,” Lord said. “It’s a good eyeopener especially for a young team like us.”

Unlike last year when they played Commerce, the Leopards will not face region competition, but will have a chance to watch those they will be playing against this season.

“It’s not only a good chance to check out the tournament and region competition,” Thomas said, “but also to see how my young girls can handle the pressure situations and perform mentally.”

East Hall will get the opportunity to watch fellow Region 7-AAA teams Gainesville, Flowery Branch, Chestatee and Pickens and will play against West Hall at 8 tonight.

“This tournament is just great, and as long as I’m around at East Hall, we’ll play in it every year,” Thomas said.

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