By R. Alan Richardson
It’s sometimes hard to track down a coach when he’s about to begin his season. Jason McBay was corralled on Saturday after a hard morning of work on their annual cleanup day that brought dozens of players and parents to the field. After an exhausting morning he then held practice with his troops for an hour. He was hot, tired, and somewhat sweaty when he joined me in the air-conditioned confines of my truck. All of that didn’t stop his enthusiasm for this year’s squad.
“I’m excited,” he said. “Coming off last year, we just couldn’t seem to be consistent. We’re hoping for a more consistent effort in 2018.
In the Region Tournament against Jackson County we could have beat anybody in the state. The next day we come back vs. Franklin and anybody in the state could have beaten us.”
According to McBay, he has tried to emphasize that over the summer and coming into the season. “We’ve talked a lot about how you practice, how you do drills, how you carry yourself from day one carries over into the season. You can’t just flip a switch and go all out. It has to be who you are all the time. It’s your character,” he commented.
He then went on to talk some about this year’s possibilities with these words, “We’ve been working a lot on filling in missing pieces whether it’s girls that are working hard and getting better, moving up from JV or the Middle School program, or having a couple of new faces moving into Madison.”
New to the program this year will be Bailey Nix who moved in from Monroe Area and Jenna Lyons who moved back to Madison for her senior year from Newnan.
Nix will add depth to the pitching staff and play some in the outfield while Nix is an all-around athlete who can play multiple positions, according to the Head Coach.
Losses from a year ago included Bulldog ace in the circle Katee Finney. Despite that loss, McBay feels good about his pitching staff.
According to him, the addition of Nix, sophomore returnee Sarah Ellen Mercer who has worked hard and gotten better, McKenna Camp, Alissa Webb, and freshman Avery Kinnett, the circle should be well covered for the Lady Dogs.
Morgan will feature five seniors and has a top-heavy group of juniors and seniors with only two sophomores and two freshmen. The other freshman will be Emma Garrison. The senior class is loaded with talent including All-State selections Webb and Madison Henry behind the plate who have both committed to North Georgia; the number one team in NCAA Division II for most of last season. Other seniors include Camp, dynamic hitter Dakota Cepuran, and Lyons. Other important parts of the puzzle will again be filled with steady outfielders Hannah Callaway in left field and Mackenzie Torbush in center.
When asked how the Region might be stacking up, McBay said, “We’ve added Jefferson so I would put our region up against any AAA region in the state with Jackson County, East Jackson, Morgan, Franklin, Monroe, and Hart County. I would think that Jackson is probably the frontrunner to win the Region this year. They were undefeated last year and only lost one player off that team. It’s going to be really tough. I’m just hoping the three Jackson schools will beat each other up a little bit. There’s no love lost there (he laughed).”
The Dogs played Jefferson in their first region game on Wednesday.
The season started Monday (see highlights of that game in this issue) with Commerce coming to town to play a JV and varsity contest.
McBay ended the conversation with some extra thoughts about this year’s squad. “The way we played last year at GAC, that’s the way we want to play and the team we want to be all the time. With the senior leadership we have, I think we can do that. We came up two games short of our goal of going to Columbus with the loss to Sonoraville in the second round in extra innings. That’s the benchmark every year for us. If you make it there, anything can happen. We’re ready for our first tests this week under the lights. I’m excited.”
Assistant coaches for the JV and Varsity teams for the upcoming season will be Timothy Roop, Riley Rogers, and Carson Ray. Shelly Hilsman will be the head coach of the Middle School team.