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The Lady Bulldogs are a tight-knit team that clinched their region title last Tuesday night with their win over Peachtree Ridge.  Photo – Alicia Couch Payne

SUWANEE — Many people thought this year would be a rebuilding year for the North Gwinnett softball team. It has turned out to be anything but that as the team’s record so far is 23-1 overall and 13-0 in Region 6-AAAAAAA.  The Lady Bulldogs are ranked second in the state in AAAAAAA.

 

The team returned only a handful of starters this year and added a new head coach after longtime coach Randy Black retired.  The new head coach Amanda Heil, a North Gwinnett graduate who played four years of varsity softball for the Bulldogs, was left to lead a young team. According to some of the players’ parents, Heil has brought a new and refreshing dynamic to the team.

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Freshman pitcher Jaylyn Benson is one of the young players that the team is having to use to fill in key positions and those young players are going the distance for North.  Photo – Alicia Couch Payne

North Gwinnett is having to rely on freshmen to fill some key positions including starting pitchers.  Their top pitching ace is freshman Amber Reed with a 13-0 record, with 70 strikeouts in 75 innings of work and an impressive 1.44 ERA. Fellow freshman pitcher Jaylyn Benson is 5-1 with a 3.00 ERA who struck out 37 batters in 32 innings on the mound.

The team has 10 batters with a .400 average or higher, and an overall team average of .415. Benson along with fellow freshman Bella Faw and sophomore Marisa Miller are three of the top batters for the Lady Bulldogs.  Faw has a .458 average, 27 hits, 5 doubles, 2 home runs, and 17 RBIs, while Benson has a .407 average, 7 home runs, 6 doubles, and 29 RBIs. 

With a quick glance, one can see an elite team that looks the part.  They’re physically fit since a majority of the girls take an all-girl weight training class during their school day taught by the football strength coach R.J. Luke. The girls also work out five days a week including game days.

Heil says one factor in the girls’ success this year is just how bonded they are.  “Our seniors and returning varsity players have done a great job being leaders, and more importantly being welcoming,” Heil said. “They love each other and get happy for each other’s success.”

The Lady Bulldogs clinched their Region title with their win over Peachtree Ridge. They have just one regular-season game left against Mountain View on Thursday at home which is their Senior Night.

Entering into postseason play, they will rely on their upperclassmen like seniors Morgan Frye, Riley Jackson, Paige Nellis and Meaghan Lewis; juniors Grace Connelly and Caroline Schumeyko to lead a largely inexperienced team into the postseason. 

“I love our chances moving forward,” Heil said of their postseason chances. “We have a lot of confidence and I always have confidence in the girls as long as we have another at-bat left.” 

— By Alicia Couch Payne

 

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