MILLEDGEVILLE — Finishing state runner-up in the Georgia High School Association’s Class-A Public School Championships under first-year head coach Julie Brooker, the Georgia Military Prep School softball team approaches the upcoming season with confidence.
GMC Prep began optional workouts the second week in July, and Brooker has seen a drastic difference in the abilities of her players since last summer.
“Last year was a lot of work, coaching-wise. We really had to set a foundation of what I wanted GMC softball to be about,” she said. “Now we can fine-tune and add on different things, instead of starting from scratch. I definitely see improvement, especially defensively.”
Participation in summer training has gone well according to Brooker, as the Lady Bulldogs competed in six scrimmage contests during the team’s camp last week, going 5-1 against the likes of Dublin, Taliaferro County, Dodge County, Houston County, West Laurens, Vidalia and Bleckley County.
Nine of the Lady Bulldogs also participated in three scrimmage games during a recent Fellowship of Christian Athletes mission trip to the Dominican Republic.
“We do have a lot of depth, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some new names make their way into the starting lineup and play major roles this year,” Brooker said.
Leading the strong contingent of young players will be seniors Lauren Pearson, 2012 All-County First Team, and Jessica Hayles, 2012 All-County Honorable Mention.
“Two players that we really look to are our seniors,” Brooker said. “They’re just naturally leaders.”
Pearson led the team in batting last season and is likely to be one of GMC Prep’s clutch hitters again, along with a stout sophomore class in Kaylie Harding, Karlie Harding, Sutton Long, Whitley Dunn, Sarah Margaret Mason and Taylor Long.
Brooker admits, “They add a lot of fire power to the lineup.”
One of the strongest aspects of GMC Prep softball this year could be the pitching staff, as Brooker will utilize five pitchers this season, led by two juniors, Macy Watkins, 2012 All-County Player of the Year, and Dixie Raley.
“We look for leadership from them, but I do have some younger pitchers that will be stepping up,” Brooker said. “Depth in the pitching category is every coach’s dream. I don’t think you can go deep and go all the way without a deep pitching staff.”
Adding to the already deep lineup, Brooker believes Sinclair Harding, sophomore, and Keely Murner, junior, could sneak into two of the starting positions this season due to their overall athleticism.
“I’m really excited about another junior of ours, Keely Murner,” she said. “I’m just looking for her to sneak up on some people. It’s nice to have another junior who can provide leadership.”
The Lady Bulldogs play a tough schedule this fall, but Brooker hopes to keep the girls focused on each game and pay attention to the details along the way.
“I’m going to try my best to keep the team focused one game at a time. It doesn’t do anybody good to look ahead,” she said. “We do have a really strong schedule. We’re going to play some teams that made deep runs in the state tournament last year.”
GMC Prep kicks off its tough season at home, taking on Eagles Landing at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9.