As Lassiter’s softball program looks to continue its championship reputation after winning its second straight Class AAAAAA title, it returns almost the entire team in its quest to return to the top this fall.
“A lot of our success started off the field,” Lassiter coach Jason Campbell said. “Last year’s team was, by far, the closest-knit team I’ve ever had in any sport. The girls enjoyed being around each other, the girls supported each other, they picked each other up when things weren’t going well.”
Lassiter won the state title despite not winning the Region 6AAAAAA championship, going 12-2 in region play, with both of its losses to region champion Pope.
“We had a school record in win percentage, and given the height this program’s been at, that’s saying something,” said Pope coach Ellie Viland, an alum of the program who was an assistant on its 2019 title team. “We had really good leadership last year, and really clutch performances are what carried us through. At the end of the day, the cards shook out as they did, but to no discount of our players, they put their heart and soul into that season.”
Despite shifting away from a more Cobb-centric region, Campbell said he sees no shift in the level of competition as Lassiter takes on Pope, Sprayberry and new foes Roswell, Johns Creek and Blessed Trinity in Region 7AAAAAA.
“I don’t see any shift in how competitive these teams in our region will be,” Campbell said. “There’s always room for growth, and the only way we’re going to get better is if we play good competition. I think our region has some very good teams in it, and we will be fortunate to be at the top of our region at the end of the year.”
Along with the quality of teams in Class AAAAAAA, the county’s other teams will also face difficult schedules against proven opponents all season.
Mount Paran Christian coach Greg Giles said that the quality of teams within Cobb and neighboring counties encourage a high level of competition when preparing schedules.
“Gwinnett, Cherokee and Cobb have very strong fast-pitch high school teams across the board,” Giles said. “We want to participate with as many of those as we can.”
After winning the 2020 Class A Private state championship, Mount Paran finished last season with an 18-6 overall record and an undefeated 9-0 record in region play. The Lady Eagles capped the season with an appearance in the final eight in Columbus.
Mount Paran is looking to continue their success after moving from Class A to Class AA, but Giles said that he does not plan to coach his team like high-schoolers.
“I am coaching this team not like a high school team, but a college team,” he said. “My expectations are the same, and that is to win the region, go to Columbus and compete for the state championship. We share those desires.”
Giles said the upgrade of Mount Paran’s softball field inspires the team as they face a new level of competition.
“This year, we’ve added lights, an irrigation system and upgraded our dugouts,” Giles said. “Our players are now playing on a field that can be very well compared to some college teams. Our program has grown in a lot of ways that have inspired the girls.”
Along with the shift of regions, Viland said the playoff format shift will add a new twist on the upcoming season.
“What’s unique about this year is how they changed the playoff format for us as well,” Viland said. “Instead of the best-of-threes, we’re doing this elimination regional, so it’s going to be new to everyone.”
Harrison will look to defend its Region 3AAAAAAA championship after going 19-9 last year and advancing to the second round of the playoffs.
Hillgrove was the No. 3 seed from Region 3AAAAAAA, but turned it on once it got into the playoffs and advanced all the way to Columbus. The Lady Hawks finished 21-13 and will look to challenge Harrison for the region title.