GUYTON — South Effingham will open its softball season Tuesday with a lineup dramatically different from the past few years.
The Mustangs graduated seven seniors from their 2018 squad but junior Alex Brown isn’t lowering her expectations. She is excited about what first-year head coach Samantha Tracy is doing with their young pitching staff.
“I’m really excited to step up as a leader for my time,” Brown said. “We have a lot of new girls coming up, a lot of freshmen. I’m ready to use my experience to help everybody.
“I think it goes back to the coach. She is going to develop these new pitchers. Kastin (Belogorska) was awesome but we are going to have to rebuild and I think Coach Tracy is going to do a good job with that. We will have to step up as a team together.”
Brown is a rare athletes in that she has the opportunity to letter four years in the sport. She admitted there was a learning curve to adjust to as a freshman but now she’s more confident in her swing.
As the leadoff batter last season, Brown swatted 49 hits, collected 15 RBI and stole 19 bases.
“I used to get down on myself a lot,” Brown said, “but I have been working on it. I am mentally stronger than I was when was a 14-year old freshman.
“I put in work; I lift weights; I condition; and I stay after. Physically I feel like I am ready. When I’m leading off, I want to set the tone for the game and get in scoring position. I’m a competitor and I like to win.
“If I can get hits to help my team win, that is what motivates me.”
The two-time defending Region 2-AAAAA champions know their crown is always in jeopardy with arch-rival Statesboro lurking. The region title came down to wire in Game 2 last season when the Mustangs beat the Blue Devils 1-0 in 10 innings..
Brown enjoys the idea of going toe to toe against area teams and is excited to see what this season has in store.
“I think we like it that way to be honest,” she said in reference to the team having a target on its back. “It challenges us to stay on top of our game. Statesboro is always the one that seems to be gunning for us. It’s been good games the last two years.
“We are at the beginning of the season and we have room to grow. We always have Statesboro right in the championship with us. It pushes us to work even harder.”
The Mustangs play hard but they know how to let loose in the dugout. Team dances and chants entertain the fans and keep the morale of the team high.
“It’s so much fun,” Brown said. “Teammates are family so when you get to know each other you get to create new cheers and it helps us as a team to stay loose.”
After struggling to get past the second round of the state playoffs, the Mustangs galloped to the Elite Eight in Columbus last year. Now that they’ve had a taste of what it’s like, Brown said it’s imperative that they return.
“It was amazing,” she said. “I want to go every year. Once you go you want to keep going.
“I wish we could have finished higher. I think the upperclassmen are on the same page as me. They want to go back, too.”