TIFTON — Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College softball coach Jennifer Walls is still not used to it, but it’s what her Fillies are: defending Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association champions.
“It’s still surreal to me,” said Walls, to be thought of as defending conference champs. She’d like to get used to it, not just now but for seasons to come. That applies to her players as well. “Our sophomores are hungry for another GCAA title,” she said. So, too, are the freshmen. They’re buying into the program as well.
Walls is advising her players to take it one game at a time. So far, so good for the 2019 winners.
Walls’ Fillies went 2-1 during their first weekend, the Juco Kickoff that took place in Florida. Starting this afternoon, they will play at a much more normal pace. ABAC takes on St. Johns River (Fla.) in a doubleheader starting at 3 p.m. in Palatka. They will have another doubleheader in the Sunshine State Saturday against Florida State College at Jacksonville before finally playing their first home series next Tuesday against Wallace Community College of Dothan, Ala.
In these first few games, Walls was immediately struck by their batting prowess.
“We can hit the ball,” she said. Ragen Lasseter and Desire Beachem both hit home runs and through those three games, Lasseter has six RBIs and Beachem has driven in five.
ABAC is “so, so happy” to have Lasseter, said Walls. Lasseter, who played for the Tift County Lady Devils in high school, is a strong defender. “A crucial part of our defense,” she said, and a “very disciplined hitter.”
Both Beachem and Lasseter are freshmen. Overall, the team is very young, with only four sophomores listed on the online roster. Three played at ABAC last year. The fourth, Kati Mills, came in from West Georgia Tech, which dropped all athletic teams at the end of last June. A pitcher, Mills was credited with both victories over the weekend.
Mills is the only former West Georgia Tech player to land on the softball squad and Wells is pleased to have her. “She spins the ball very well,” said Walls, adding Mills pitched aggressively. Even better for the Fillies, Mills provides much-needed leadership in the circle; their other two pitchers are freshmen.
Walls said ABAC’s pitchers still had work to do. Both freshmen have already had a chance to work. Bailey Spires comes in from Telfair County and Katie Royals hails from Atkinson County. Royals, said Walls, pitched well over the fall.
Freshmen will start at nearly every position.
Abbey Adkins, a Worth County alum, will man first base. Sophomores Courtney Savignano and Baylor Brown are competing for the second base job. Walls said it will come down to hitting as to who becomes the regular.
The team’s other sophomore, Braxton Hill, is penciled in at catcher. “She’s giving us a lot of leadership,” said Walls, who also praised Hill’s softball IQ.
Outfield is shaping up to be a very bright area defensively. Walls described the starters there as very fast and capable of covering an amazing amount of ground. Two of the outfielders, Jenna Hickman and Amber Maxwell, are both in from Dodge County.
Around the conference, Georgia Military College was also in Florida for the same event as ABAC. “GMC had a pretty good weekend,” she said. Georgia Highlands looks strong as well. “Anybody can beat anybody.”