2019 Softball Previews: Preseason Power Rankings

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All summer the diamond girls have been getting ready for the 2019 season. It’s only fitting to kick off the fall with our initial Power Rankings, as we look at our area talent and rank them top to bottom.

What was 2018 like? Stellar, in short. Two programs, Banks County and Jefferson, played for a State Championship. Those two combined to go 59-18 overall. There were wonderful surprise runs like White County that made the playoffs ahead of schedule. Lumpkin, Stephens, Dawson, Union, and Commerce all played beyond the regular season. If we can feature 8 out of 11 local programs in the playoffs again, 2019 will be just as special.

PRESEASON RANKINGS: Based on success from last season, outlook for 2019, departed talent, returning talent, schedule, region, coaching changes, you name it.

#1 BANKS COUNTY

2018: 29-10; 2A State Runner-Up; Region 8-AA Runner-Up
Coach: Kelby Cronic
Impact Returning Players: Tybee Denton, Madison Cronic, Jill Martinet, Kya Santiago
Crucial Losses: Jaycie Bowen, Taylor Speed

The losses of the reigning BLITZ Player of the Year Jaycie Bowen, along with the other seniors who set the tone, will be huge. However, a player like Tybee Denton coming back and a solid hitter in Madison Cronic gives the Lady Leopards plenty of ammunition heading into 2019. Kya Santiago and Jill Martinet will also be big-time impact players once again. Newly named head coach Kelby Cronic has a program that has made winning a habit at Banks County, and this team just made a title game appearance less than a year ago. They will remain hungry!

#2 JEFFERSON

2018: 30-8; 3A State Runner-Up; Region 8-AAA Champions
Coach: Kacie Bostwick
Impact Returning Players: Livi Blackstock, Abby Beatty
Crucial Losses: Emily Perrin, Sam Vinson, Giorgia Russell, Katie Martin

There are some big shoes to fill in whoever takes over the ace spot from Emily Perrin. Sam Vinson, Giorgia Russell, and Katie Martin will also be sorely missed, but Kacie Bostwick has Livi Blackstock and Abby Beatty to build around. This is still a team that is likely to make another Columbus run, and once there, anything can happen as evidenced last go around.

#3 COMMERCE

2018: 22-7; 1A State Sweet 16; Region 8-A Champions
Coach: Melissa Mullis
Impact Returning Players: Grace Hobbs, Carson Hobbs, Haley Horne, Emma Davis
Crucial Losses: None

Commerce opens 2019 as one of the most promising because it didn’t lose a single player from last year’s region title and Sweet 16 team. Melissa Mullis has a stellar offense to work with, led by the Hobbs girls (Gracee and Carson), who were freshman phenoms a year ago. The sky is the limit for the Lady Tigers in 2019.

#4 LUMPKIN COUNTY

2018: 21-9; 3A State Rnd 1; Region 7-AAA Runner-Up
Coach: Joseph Jones
Impact Returning Players: Brighton Harder, Natalie Robinson, Lauren English, Evee Dornhecker
Crucial Losses: Izzy Kinard, Lita Sills

Lumpkin has a LOT coming back, led by Brighton Harder, Natalie Robinson, Lauren English, and many others. The loss of Izzy Kinard, a true leader, hurts, but her impact on the program will still hold over for this group to follow her hard work and determination model she set. Should be another great year in Dahlonega.

#5 UNION COUNTY

2018: 16-13; 2A State Rnd 1; Region 8-AA 4th Place
Coach: Stephen Mitchell
Impact Returning Players: Mary Wischmeyer
Crucial Losses: Aladriel Arnold

Union was ahead of schedule as a young playoff team from a year ago. Aladriel Arnold was a huge reason why, but she graduated. Mary Wischmeyer will be the senior go-to leader in 2019 for Stephen Mitchell’s group, who definitely has a chance to do the same or better this year.

#6 WHITE COUNTY

2018: 15-11; 4A State Rnd 1; Region 7-AAAA 3rd Place
Coach: Drew Owens
Impact Returning Players: Reagan Dunagan
Crucial Losses: Abby Taylor

Drew Owens has to replace a few key pieces, but overall, Reagan Dunagan had a fantastic freshman campaign as the ace pitcher, which bodes well for the future success at White County. That future starts now. This is a perennial playoff contender, and that should hold true this season.

#7 DAWSON COUNTY

2018: 10-15; 3A State Rnd 1; Region 7-AAA 4th Place
Coach: Jimmy Pruett
Impact Returning Players: Bella Henson, Olivia Martinez
Crucial Losses: Maggie Schandera, Carol Drake

Dawson snuck into the playoffs last season, and 2019 should fare even better. Despite losing a decent amount of seniors, this program typically doesn’t slide much with the typical cycle of players leaving. Olivia Martinez plays ball just about every day, so she’s primed for a breakout sophomore season, while Bella Henson after two years in the program should be even better as well.

#8 STEPHENS COUNTY

2018: 16-12; 4A State Rnd 1; Region 8-AAAA Runner-Up
Coach: Dave Poffenberger
Impact Returning Players: Jazmine Lowery
Crucial Losses: Emma Whitfield

There’s no pretending…Emma Whitfield was the greatest to ever suit up for this program, and her loss is potentially catastrophic. Still, this team is two years removed from making it to the state championship game, and players like Jazmine Lowery can help make that the goal. Someone will definitely need to step up and try to fill the void perhaps in aggregate that Whitfield’s departure leaves.

#9 HABERSHAM CENTRAL

2018: 10-14; No Playoffs; Region 8-AAAAAA 5th Place
Coach: TBA
Impact Returning Players: Kilee Thomas, Brayden Staton
Crucial Losses: Paige Cook, Adelaide Askew

How does a team replace its head coach (Stephanie Thomas) who built the program, arguably its best player ever (Paige Cook) and a solid all-region player in Adelaide Askew? We will see. The game rolls on, but Habersham has a lot to overcome. Even with those aforementioned pieces in place, it was a difficult 10-14 season last year that resulted in no playoffs.

2019 Bob & Teds GIF

#10 RABUN COUNTY

2018: 3-16; No Playoffs; 8-AA 8th Place
Coach: Angela Shepheard
Impact Returning Players: Alyssa Fair, Danielle Loggins
Crucial Losses: Morgan Butts

It hurts losing Morgan Butts, but the return of standouts Alyssa Fair and Danielle Loggins should give the Lady Cats a headstart in 2019 from their 3-16 season last time around. Angela Shepheard and company should expect better results in 2019.

#11 TOWNS COUNTY

2018: 5-17; No Playoffs; Region 8-A 5th Place
Coach: Clay Livingston
Impact Returning Players: N/A
Crucial Losses: N/A

The Lady Indians didn’t have the season they’d hoped for a year ago at 5-17 overall, but 2019 provides a blank canvas for them to paint on, and they’ll shoot to make dramatic improvements this time.

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