As schools resume, high school softball is gearing up to get into full swing. Looking ahead to the upcoming season, Buford looks to be competitive in its new classification, AAAAAAA; North Gwinnett brings back a strong group of seniors looking to defend their state title; and Lanier welcomes a new head coach to the helm.
Here’s a preview for the 2022 varsity softball teams for Buford, North Gwinnett and Lanier.
• Region classification: 8-AAAAAAA
• Head coach: Trent Adams
• 2021 record: 28-4-1, 13-2 (region runner-up)
• 2021 state playoffs: Finished fourth place in Class AAAAAA
• Key returning players: 3B/C Emma Castorri, Sr.; LHP Olivia Duncan, Sr.; OF Emma Manders, Sr.; 2B Jenn Ramirez, Jr.; OF Tavye Borders, Jr.; OF Taryn Gibbs, Jr.; 1B Adrianna Martinez, Jr.; SS Mackenzie Pickens, Jr.; C/2B Madison Pickens, Jr.; RHP Emma Grace Williams, Jr.; 2B Kylie Gower, Soph.; OF Abby McKinnis, Soph.
• New players expected to make an impact: 1B Gracie Griffin, Jr.; OF/INF Izzy Rettinger, Soph.; OF/INF Summer Castorri, Fr.; INF Kayden Gabrels, Fr.; RHP Addison Rackley, Fr.; OF/RHP Caroline Stanton, Fr.
Buford is no stranger to having to adjust to new classifications as the school transitioned from Class AAAAA to Class AAAAAA at the start of the 2020 season and now, just two years later, will compete in the state’s highest classification, AAAAAAA.
When asked how Buford’s softball team will adjust, head coach Trent Adams said, “Historically we have sought out the strongest competition possible, which has included 7A programs. We believe that playing a challenging schedule is what prepares our team for the playoffs.”
Adams’ offered his overall take on the upcoming season: “We are excited to meet the challenge. We know that we are in not only the biggest classification but also a very talented region. We know we have a lot of work ahead of us, but we will take it one practice and game at a time.”
• Region classification: 7-AAAAAAA
• Head coach: Amanda Heil
2021 record: 30-5-1, 11-0 (region champions)
• 2021 state playoffs: State champions in Class AAAAAAA
• Key returning players: SS Bella Faw, Sr.; 3B Malissa Felbaum, Sr.; UTIL Avery Fielden, Sr.; 2B Ella Janish, Sr.; LF Landry Rabitsch, Sr.; P Amber Reed, Sr.; UTIL Taylor Cohron, Jr.; P Addison Miles, Jr.; SS Nadia Glass, Soph.; C Mary Grace Nellis, Soph.; 1B Sydney Woyce, Soph.
• New players expected to make an impact: P/OF Morgan Sullivan, Soph.; INF Olivia Chuck, Soph.; P/OF Victoria NA, Fr.; INF Addie Pearce, Fr.
North Gwinnett starts the 2022 season looking to defend its state championship title in Class AAAAAAA. The Bulldogs return a core group of seniors who have played on the varsity team for years now and were a part of last year’s state championship team.
“This year’s group of seniors is what every coach dreams about,” said head coach Amanda Heil. “These five seniors came in with me and I cannot ask for a better group. They have lost tough games and won on the biggest stage. More importantly, they are wonderful kids who will continue to teach our young players the North Gwinnett Way!!”
When asked about her overall season outlook, Heil said, “We are excited to get this season started. This year, we’re lucky enough to travel to Colorado for a tournament in August, then it will be a three-month, 30-game grind. With a great mix of returning players plus some talented young kids, the Lady Dawgs are ready for whatever this season has in store.”
• Region classification: 8-AAAAAA
• Head coach: Paul Cromie
• 2021 record: 6-16, 4-11 (fifth in region)
• Key returning starters: 3B CeCe Sampona, Sr.; OF Sydney Scott, Sr.; OF Madison Baessler, Jr.; RHP/INF Ashley Miner, Jr.; SS/C Sam Fadely, Jr.; 1B Addison Willett, Jr.; 2B Ansley Idland, Soph.; LHP/1B Hannah Ridley, Soph.
• Other key players: OF Linsey Peevy, Jr.; OF Kirah Walker, Soph.; OF Amayah Wright, Soph.; INF Dallas Green, Soph.
• New players expected to make an impact: C Devon Kokoszka, Jr.
Although Lanier remains in Region 8-AAAAAA, the Longhorns will face new opponents this season. Apalachee, Gainesville, Jackson County and North Forsyth are new to the region, while Habersham Central, Lanier and Shiloh are 8-AAAAAA veterans.
In February, Lanier announced the Lady Longhorns would welcome a new head coach to the program after Caitlin Schmidt, the head coach for the four years prior, decided to step down to pursue other interests. Stepping into the head coaching position this season is Paul Cromie, an assistant coach since 2020.
When asked about his outlook on the season, Cromie is looking to his two seniors, Sampona and Scott. He said they are natural leaders and can “emulate” his desire to take Lanier softball to the next level.
“The hours in the weightroom and on the track since January have reaped many benefits,” he said, “and the Longhorns are excited to transfer that intensity to the ballfield.”
FEATURED PHOTO: Senior Olivia Duncan, pictured here during the 2021 regular season, is the sole left-handed pitcher for the Buford Wolves and only one of two upperclassmen in the team’s bullpen. Photo by Alicia Payne.