The GHSA Class 1A private school softball playoffs got started last week.
After the first round, all four Macon teams are still alive, thanks to Stratford’s win over Hebron Christian and Mount de Sales’ victory over Fellowship Christian. Tattnall Square and FPD earned byes in the first round, but this week, those teams begin their march toward Columbus.
For FPD, its a march toward a possible state title repeat. Although the Vikings are technically the defending champions, first-year head coach Denny Bryant has stated that this is not the same team as last year.
“That group hit over 30 home runs as a senior class,” Bryant said about last season’s seniors. “Losing that much production from last season, we knew the dynamics of this team were totally different.”
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The on-field production was not the only dynamic that changed from last season.
“That group of seniors last year were great leaders,” Bryant said. “They were able to keep the young girls motivated and working hard, and this year we only have three seniors, and they are trying to do the same thing. They have been a big part of getting us where we are today.”
Two of those seniors, Sadie Frame and Caylee Ann Sutton, were starters on last year’s team, and the other, Sydnee Sconyers, was a contributor off the bench. Their value is in experience, and that is not lost on Bryant.
“In their four years of high school, they finished in the top three for two years and won the state championship in the other, so they have some experience in knowing what to do to get deep into the playoffs,” Bryant said.
The other returning starter from last season’s team is junior pitcher Karsen Ochs, who committed to South Carolina as a freshman. She was a major factor in bringing home the title last season. Ochs pitched in more than two-thirds of the games and was very good in Columbus last year, pitching in three games, including the championship.
“She’s very good in the circle,” Bryant said. “It’s going to come down to her controlling the game. When she throws strikes, she tough to score on, and we’ve just gotta play defense behind her and find a way to manufacture runs.”
On Wednesday, the Vikings host Darlington.
“Everyone we have talked to has raved about how good Darlington was,” Bryant said. “They are very solid defensively; they have a good pitcher and do the little things offensively. So it’s going to be a challenge for our girls.”
FPD enters the playoffs with a 9-8 record, and it was the No. 7 seed. Tattnall Square, the No. 2 seed, hosts Landmark Christian.
Mount de Sales travels to Mount Pisgah, while Stratford travels to Brookstone. All four series start with a doubleheader Wednesday and a third game, if necessary, Thursday.
“We started about five or six girls who never played varsity softball before, so it has been a season where we’ve had to grow,” Bryant said. “But on the same lines, our region for one is very tough, and our schedule has been tough. We lost some games to some very good competition; we’ve beat some really good teams that’s got a lot of wins.”
Regardless of the road the Vikings took to get here, Bryant feels good about his team going into its series Wednesday and believes it is ready for the challenge.
“I definitely think our girls are battle-tested. We’ve faced some really, really, really good pitching,” Bryant said. “So I think our girls will be prepared to see the best pitching in the state because I believe we’ve already seen some of the best pitching in the state.”
GHSA Softball Playoffs
All series are doubleheaders Wednesday and an if-necessary game Thursday.
Lakeside-Evans at Houston County, 4 p.m., Wednesday
Jones County at McIntosh, 5 p.m., Wednesday
Perry at Thomson, 1 p.m., Wednesday
Peach County at Worth County, 2 p.m., Wednesday
Rutland at Appling County, 4 p.m., Wednesday
Class 1A Private
Landmark Christian at Tattnall Square, 4:30 p.m., Wednesday
Darlington at FPD, 4 p.m., Wednesday
Mount de Sales at Mount Pisgah, 2 p.m., Wednesday
Stratford at Brookstone, 1:30 p.m., Wednesday