The Baldwin Bravettes took a big step on the softball diamond last year, but they don’t want to stop there.
The 2018 season saw the program make its first trip to the GHSA Class 4A state playoffs under head coach Charlene Dunn. Baldwin High was handed a quick postseason exit by West Laurens, a team that went on to Columbus as one of the final eight to compete for a state title.
“We had a tough night that night,” Dunn said looking back at her team’s first playoff experience. “A hurricane was coming through, so they pushed the game up. We had to go down to West Laurens and play in some tough weather. It rained pretty much the whole night, but it was a learning experience. The players were very happy to be going and their adrenaline was high. We just wish the circumstances could’ve been better. Right before we left that day one of our key players got hurt, so she couldn’t play.”
Coach Dunn wants the team back in the playoffs, but not just to make a short appearance.\
“We want to go further,” she said. “We’re trying to get back to the playoffs and then get as far as we can. Everybody’s doing what we’re trying to do though. Everybody’s working hard. I’m telling the girls we can’t be lax because while we’re doing that these other teams are getting ready.”
The Bravettes are looking to replace four graduating seniors from last year, including superb all-around player Courtney Thomas who handled a majority of the pitching duties. While the production of those seniors will be missed, Dunn welcomes back a decent amount of talent as well as some new freshmen who will be called upon to contribute right away. Four-year players Tamia James and Miranda Brett carry the most experience at the varsity level. James led the team in RBIs last year and will continue to hold down first base in her final season.
“She played rec league down in Wilco (Wilkinson County) and some travel ball over the summer, and I heard she did some good things over there,” Coach Dunn said of her first baseman. “I’m hoping that’ll carry on into this season.”
The Baldwin head coach is also looking to the bat of junior Aylexys Butts to be very productive for the team.
The offense has been there for the Bravettes in recent years and the defense has been just good enough, but finding consistent pitching has plagued the program. Walks have badly hurt the team in games they would have otherwise been in, but without a coach on the staff with a pitching background it’s been tough to get the BHS hurlers pitching at the next level. Junior Jaylin Smith, who split innings with Thomas last year, will be relied upon heavily to lead the team from the circle in 2019. Dunn also has a freshman who pitched last year at Oak Hill Middle School who will likely hold down the No. 2 pitching spot.
The Bravettes got in some scrimmage work over the summer, and the head coach saw some good things as well as some things her team needs to continue to work on if it’s going to take that next big step.
“Over the summer we went to Mary Persons and played three games over there. We competed with one team very well, but against the other two teams the main thing that got us was pitching and catching. We did a lot of good things, but they were spread out among the three games. We need to put it all together.”
Unlike last year, Baldwin softball has a definite home in 2018 now that the team’s softball field has gotten a complete overhaul thanks to a project funded by ESPLOST (education special purpose local option sales tax) dollars. The playing surface, surrounding fence, dugouts, batting cages, and the fieldhouse are all brand new and ready to welcome Bravettes supporters.
“We love it and I've already talked to the girls about maintaining it,” said Dunn. “We’re just ready to get the fans out here. It’s beautiful.”
BHS finished fourth in Region 3-4A last season to slide itself into the playoff picture. Of the five teams in the region — Academy of Richmond County (ARC), Burke County, Cross Creek, Thomson, and Baldwin — four get into the postseason based on region records. The Bravettes are scheduled to begin region play Sept. 3 against ARC, and they will use the month of August to warm up for those more meaningful matchups. Baldwin opens regular season play today (Monday) at Southwest of Macon. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.