outh Effingham’s tradition-rich softball program have been handed to someone new.
Samantha Tracy was recently named to succeed Chuck Smith as head coach of the Lady Mustangs. Smith retired after leading the team for 10 seasons, including last year’s run to the Elite Eight.
Tracy happy to be part of a program that is known for winning. Her first order of business is building a strong bullpen.
Last season, the Lady Mustangs relied heavily on the arm of Kastin Belogorska. Her loss to graduation leaves a big hole on the mound.
Tracy isn’t bothered by the idea of building her bullpen from scratch. She has three underclassmen — Hannah Decker, Navaeh Herrod and Haley Johnson — who are ready for the challenge and she is excited to help them develop into the stout pitchers she believes they can be.
“Decker has come to every pitching thing I’ve had,” Tracy said. “Herrod has come to a bunch. Haley Johnson is another freshman pitcher ready to be developed this year.
“They are going to have to step up. By the end of the summer, they are going to have to not feel young anymore. This year in the circle we are going to be young — but not in the field — so behind our mound we are going to be really strong.”
Tracy knows the ins and outs of what it takes throw strikes.
“My advantage as a head coach is that I used to pitch,” Tracy said. “That’s sort of my thing. I don’t shy away from teaching pitching.
“If someone is having a bad day, then I have someone else that can fill in. I don’t want there to be one person that all of that is on because there are thirty-plus games with postseason so I would rather spread that pressure out and put it on several people’s shoulders and make it a team effort.”
Tracy previously coached at Windsor Forest and had stints at Hawkinsville, Savannah State, Georgia Southwestern and Armstrong State. She left the Knights and set her sights on a community that embraces the softball and everything that comes with it.
She said, “I wanted to build a tradition at a school that had the ability to do that, — the funding, the support, the families and the kids that are into softball. I found at Windsor Forest there were great kids I worked with but not a lot of support for softball. I feel like this program already had a base that I can take to the next level.”
Although she’s coached at the college level, Tracy thinks there’s nothing like a a good, old-fashioned showdown in high school region play. With this being the highest classification Tracy has coached in, she is looking forward to seeing what she can do against Region 2-AAAAA teams such as Ware County and Statesboro.
“I am excited about the region games because I want to see what I’m up against,” Tracy said. “Where are they and what do I need to do to get past them so I can get to Columbus (and the state tournament)?”
The Mustangs Lady will return junior shortstop Alex Brown and senior first baseman Hailey Pinette, who proved to be a strong batting duo last season. And although Tracy will have just a handful of seniors, they’ve been hard at work training and participating in the summer camp.
“I have four good seniors and I feel like they are doing good leadership stuff.” Tracy said. “They are transitioning into me being a new coach. They are giving me all they got.
“I am pretty excited about this season.”