THE JEFFERSON softball program jumps to Class AAA this year, and Dragon senior Olivia Husted can’t think of a better way to make a first impression.
“I would definitely love to make it to Columbus this year, especially since we just moved up to Class AAA,” Husted said. “That would make a huge statement.”
As a Class AA squad last year, the Dragons were denied a coveted trip to Columbus for state Elite Eight, losing to Bremen in the Sweet 16 of the Class AA playoffs.
But this year Jefferson returns nine players off that team and hopes to play deeper into the postseason this time around.
“I think this time of year, everybody’s goal is to eventually make it to Columbus and compete for a state championship,” said coach Zach Black, who guided the Dragons to a 24-11 record in 2013 in his first year with the program. “But right now, we’re just trying to focus on the things we can control.”
Jefferson’s senior class includes Husted, last year’s Region 8-AA Player of the Year, who was equally dominant from the plate and in the pitchers’ circle. Husted hit .484 with five homers and 37 RBIs while going 9-7 with a 1.82 ERA as a pitcher.
“That’s the good thing about Olivia,” Black said. “She can do anything we ask her to. Especially moving up into the region we’re moving into, which is a extremely competitive and tough region, it will be good to have some girls who can do different things for us.”
The other seniors are first baseman Emily Holman, who returns from a neck injury that kept her out most of last season, second baseman Arynn Baker (.372 batting average last year) and third baseman Meagan Faulkner (.287). Jefferson’s juniors are pitcher Caitin Cantrell, who went 11-4 last year with a 2.57 ERA (she’ll also play in the outfield and infield), shortstop Erin Jackson (.365) and outfielder Emily Dufty (.382).
The Dragons move into a Region 8-AAA that includes Jackson County, Oconee County and Morgan County, all of which won at least 20 games in 2013 and reached the state tournament. The Dragons defeated two of those teams last year.
“There will be a lot of good teams, a lot of good programs,” Black said. “It will be fun to compete against them everyday and see some new teams. It will be nice not to have to travel so far with what we’re doing.”
Husted believes the sky is the limit for this team.
“We can do anything,” she said. “In all honesty, if we really come together as a team, we can win state.”
To that end, Husted praises the chemistry on this squad.
“A bunch of us all have classes together, so we spend time together, not only on the field but off the field as well,” said Husted, who transferred to Jefferson from Bethlehem Christian Academy last year. “A bunch of girls have grown up together, and it’s just kind of cool because they’re all really close.”
Likewise, Black said this is a team that enjoys playing together, which can only help Jefferson in its quest to reach the Elite Eight in Columbus.
“They like to have fun, and that’s good,” he said. “They get along with each other. They’re good teammates. They hang out off the field. Hopefully that will lead to softball success as well.”
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