GUYTON — Jessica Evans likes to plan ahead — way ahead, in fact.
Evans’ itinerary this fall includes a trip to Columbus with the South Effingham Lady Mustangs. Their new head coach explained her blueprint for getting to the site of the GHSA state softball tournament while introducing herself in the South Effingham auxiliary gym Saturday morning.
“It’s kind of neat being in different colors and a different time,” Evans said while wearing a black jacket adorned with a cardinal South Effingham logo. “I’m excited.”
It will be the first time that Evans has worn anything as a head coach other than the red and navy of Lamar County, her alma mater. She coached the Lady Trojans for eight years, leading them to the Class AA Final Four in 2019.
“It was our first year in Columbus,” Evans said. “I had a lot of good athletes.”
University of Georgia signee Cayla Bishop was one of them. The shortstop hit .518, slugged 17 home runs and compiled 33 RBI.
Power was Lamar County’s trademark under Evans. It popped 47 homers in her final season compared to just eight during debut campaign.
Evans said she will have no preconceived notions about her new players when she hits the practice field with them for the first time this summer. The team, set to move up a notch to Class AAAAAA this fall, posted an uncharacteristic 13-20 mark last year, losing in the opening round of the Class AAAAA tourney.
“We are going to have a fresh, clean start,” Evans said while holding pages of plans for her new program. “I did not cut these pages from Lamar County because I know this is a different place and we are starting something new.”
Evans, a former standout player at Columbus State University, admitted to being proud of Lamar County’s recent accomplishments, however.
“It was a very well-old machine with some great athletes,” she said. “We had a lot of Division I athletes and Division II athletes. Actually, a lot of them are playing in (college) today.”
Her resumé includes a stint as a graduate assistant at Columbus State. She was on Tiffany Tootle’s staff that was named the NCAA Division II South Atlantic Region’s Coaching Staff of the Year in 2007. The Peach Belt Conference champion Lady Cougars went 58-5 and finished ranked No. 3 nationally that year.
Evans, who played baseball as a Lamar County student because fastpitch softball wasn’t an option, is a stickler for fundamentals and discipline. She expects her players to hustle at all times, including sprinting to their positions
Getting stronger is also a priority, she said.
“There is a lot that goes into planning and I hope you understand that,” Evans said. “I don’t expect you to like me everyday. I don’t expect the girls to like me everyday.
“I am here to be their coach, not the friend. But I am here to make them better.”