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April 23, 2014

Fillies ready for GCAA softball tourney

TIFTON — "I'd rather be us than anyone else right now."

That is the boast of Donna Campbell, head coach of the ABAC Fillies softball team. Looking at how the team has been doing going into the GCAA state playoffs, it is hard to disagree with her.

The squad has won 13 of their last 15 games and took what she labeled as "two crucial games" against Georgia Perimeter to close out the regular season.

The playoffs will be held at Locust Grove, at Strong Rock Christian School.

ABAC will be entering the playoffs as the No. 2 seed. That means they receive a first round bye and will face the winner of the game between Georgia Highlands and Georgia Military College. The former is the No. 3 team. The top rank lives with Darton State, a squad Campbell said was 19-1 in the conference.

Before Monday, they did not have that bye. Georgia Perimeter was the higher seeded team, but the Fillies ended that. Rachel Hill pitched a complete game 3-hitter and Brittany Davis drove in Katrese Brown to win 1-0 in the first game.

Jenna Byrd had a pair of 1st inning RBIs in game two. That would stand up as Taylor Boyett held GPC to just one run.

It looks like it does not really matter who they will play in their first game in the GCAA meet. On one hand, she said "Georgia Highlands is good." On the other, "GMC is scrappy."

Then again, she has something complimentary to say about every participant. With East Georgia, it is that they "have really come out of the woodshed." Darton "is strong." That also applied to Georgia Perimeter.

As for their own chances, "we're capable of beating anybody," she said.

Before the streak started, the team was a mere 14-12. Campbell is now left wondering if the best is yet to come.

"I don't think we've played our best ball," she said.

One of the reasons for her optimism is the team's youth. She said they have 13 freshmen on the roster. Surprisingly, their coach said "they don't feel the pressure." She has an explanation for that. As most of them came from top-flight high school programs, they are well prepared for their current situation.

Arguably, it is a sophomore who they are relying on the most: Hill. Despite being slowed by an ankle injury from last fall, Campbell believes she can beat anyone. "She's the real deal," she said. Hill sports a record of 13-6. An equal number of wins has been posted by Taylor Boyett, who doubles as a first baseman.

Offensively, it has been Jenna Byrd. Byrd is a transfer, but still has freshman eligibility. Once Campbell found out she was available, she knew it was going to be a big signing.

"She's a game changer," she said.

Others who have played big seasons have been  Jaye Hilliard, Brown, Davis, Crystal Scanlon and Melveshia Wright. All are freshmen. Hilliard is a walk-on and is hitting .373 for the season. Of those with regular playing time, she trails only Byrd.

Win or lose, she's proud of her team, but no doubt she said, reaching the national tournament would be sweet.

For those who want to keep up with the Fillies but cannot travel to Locust Grove, the games will be available for streaming at www.thegcaa.com.

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