In his first season as Apalachee High School softball coach, Allan Bailey has done quite well.

Bailey, who also guides the school’s varsity baseball program, added the title of head softball coach during the offseason. His method has clearly connected with his softball players as the Wildcats are bound for Columbus to battle in the Elite Eight for Class AAAAAA.

On paper, AHS may not be the outright favorite to win a state softball championship in coming days, but this is a group of players people would be wise to not count out.

The 2019 Wildcats have plenty of talent throughout the roster and have already shown what they are capable of doing on the diamond. In addition to winning its first two state playoff series, AHS has wins against two teams which have been ranked No. 1 during parts of the campaign.

Prior to the school’s home football game on Friday, Oct. 18, I spoke briefly with Bailey in the press box at R. Harold Harrison Stadium. It had been a long week for the coach as well as his players as the team defeated Effingham County in a best-of-three series.

The Wildcats won the opener before host Effingham rebounded in game 2. In game 3, AHS rallied for the game and series victory.

Bailey has numerous weapons in all phases of the game this fall. Apalachee has quality pitching as well as pitching depth. The team has several players who have been leaders at the plate. Just as strong has been the team’s defensive play.

The Wildcat players and coaches know of course that the deeper they go into the state playoffs the tougher it will be. Runs will become harder to post on the scoreboard. Defensive miscues must be at a minimum if not eliminated completely.

It’s an old coaching adage but a true one that the AHS softball team has gotten hot at the right time and is playing its best right now. Coaches talk about that all the time regardless of the sport and it has certainly transpired for this team.

It’s not always a smooth transition going from one head coach to another in high school. In some instances, players don’t like the methods of the new person guiding them on the playing field.

Bailey, however, has clearly been a solid choice for the fast-pitch Wildcats and the team is set for what very may well be a historic trip to Columbus.

The mental approach by the team members has been solid and the players support each other through the ups and downs. All the right ingredients are there and AHS has taken full advantage of it.

There is just something about this group of players and coaches. It won’t be easy of course but you just get the sense that something special is just over the horizon.

The Wildcats will make the trek to the site of the softball championships and hope to add the ultimate accomplishment to their resume. AHS has already won 19 games, defeated a pair of top-ranked opponents, advanced to the Elite Eight, compiled an impressive region record and has shown they should be taken very seriously.

Many doubters have already been silenced. Don’t be surprised if AHS quiets them all by the time the state tournament is complete. The team has the talent and coaching to go all the way and bring the state championship trophy home.

Winder resident Chris Bridges is a former sports editor for the Barrow News-Journal. He is a multi-time winner for column writing from the Georgia Press Association, National Newspaper Association and the Georgia Sports Writers Association. He welcomes feedback about this column at pchrisbridges@gmail.com.

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