Finally, the time has come to compete for a championship and show off its talented roster as the season will begin Friday in Dalton.
The Lady Eagles have 11 players, no seniors, but the lineup will be stacked with talented underclassmen.
“The 11 girls that we have are all true softball players. They play travel ball and have played for a long time, so our roster is more experienced this year based on that fact,” head coach Chad Parker said. “I feel like we have as good of talent as anybody in the state, definitely as anybody in the region. Our focus is just being as good as we can be every day and we’re just focusing on us, but we wouldn’t be very good coaches if we didn’t expect to be playing a long time this season. We have high expectations.”
Excel returns its top four batters in the lineup from 2013 when the team went 16-9-1. The team also added quality pitching in transfers Hannah Todd and Savannah Sewell.
Todd, just a sophomore, will be Excel’s leadoff hitter and is already committed to North Carolina.
“Hannah Todd is the best pitcher in the state and one of the best in the country, so she will get a lot of innings for us,” Parker said. “She throws 66 miles per hour. That’s equivalent to upper 90s [in baseball] and she’s got all the pitches to back it up. She just won a national championship in travel ball as a pitcher. She’s as good as they come. There’s not going to be a better pitcher in the state.”
Sewell, a junior, also will see time in the circle.
“Savannah Sewell is right up there close to [Todd],” Parker said. “She’ll be our No. 2 pitcher. She came from Rockmart. She pitched a lot of innings for them. She plays high-level travel ball and is a high-level pitcher. She pitches in the 60s as well.”
Todd and Sewell will get plenty of run support from a strong group of returning position players. Sophomore Brighton McCollum returns for her sophomore season after being the leadoff hitter a year ago when she hit .417. Sophomore catcher Lindsey Mauldin and sophomore third baseman Lexie Adams also return to make up a strong middle of the order. Adams hit .494 as a freshman with a .539 on-base percentage and .734 slugging percentage in 79 at bats. She hit two home runs, three triples and seven doubles, and her 30 RBIs led the team.
Another one of Excel’s five sophomores returning is Aliza Baker, who was the No. 3 hitter in the order for the team a season ago and will play first base. Baker hit .386 last year with 27 RBIs.
In addition to the strong sophomore class, Excel’s middle school team won its league championship last year. Four members of the team will be freshmen on this season’s team, including Whitney Harris, Kalli Beth Scheff, Taylor Gibson and Rachel Parrott.
“I’m very excited about our freshmen,” Parker said. “Our middle school team had a very good team.”
The new additions will help compensate for the transfers of two strong players from the 2013 team. Second baseman Andrea Taylor, who hit .348 last season, and Shay Sullins, who had 11 wins and a 1.67 ERA in the circle last year, both transferred away.
“We lost two really good players to transfer. It’s just the nature of private schools, you have some leave and some come in,” Parker said.
Despite the young talent, Parker believes his players’ travel ball experience will help ease the transition into a varsity region schedule.
“We’re still young. I think we will make plenty of youth mistakes, but we’re a lot more battle tested than we were last year,” he said. “The girls that we brought in that have come to us are super battle tested from travel ball. They have a lot of experience. I don’t think it will be an issue this year.”
The girls with high-level travel ball tournament experience may prove useful as Parker believes his team has the talent to make a deep run in the Class A private school playoffs.
“If we didn’t have those expectations, we wouldn’t be very good,” Parker said, “because we do have a lot of talent.”