The 2014 softball season was one to remember for squads from Alexander and Chapel Hill High School. With 10 teams in Region 5-AAAAA, the region tourney came down to four teams, which also included Allatoona and South Paulding. The tourney played out just like the regular season, with Chapel Hill and Alexander standing tall, and the Lady Panthers edging out the Lady Cougars in the championship game.
Chapel Hill took all three games they played against AHS this year and would go all the way to the State Elite 8 Tournament in Columbus, which earns them this year’s title of 2014 Douglas County Sentinel Team of the Year.
“This honor says a lot about our depth,” said CHHS coach Mick Harper. “We had so many kids who contributed throughout the year. Obviously the success we had this year, the team records, wins, and qualifying for the Elite-8, makes us deserving.”
The Lady Panthers finished the season with a 32-6 record. They won a school record 25 consecutive games. Breaking records was the standard for Chapel Hill this season. Other team records to fall this year were batting average (.394), on-base percentage (.520), slugging percentage (.569), doubles (70), home runs (29), runs scored (292), RBIs (280) and players hit by pitch (24). The Lady Panthers also broke the record for most players with a home run in a single game (4) and home runs in a single game (4).
“The offense was fun to watch,” Harper said. “It was something different than we have had in the past. Before we really had to execute on the bunt and hit and run. We had to steel bases and use our speed. We would get a few runs at a time. This year was the first time I could tell them we could sit back and play for the big inning. We had table setters at the top that led the kids in the middle do their job. We were never out of a game.”
Chapel Hill’s offense was led by the 2014 DCS Player of the Year, Ashley Morgan. Morgan, who is only a sophomore, is now a two time recipient of this top honor. She is also the 2014 DCS Hitter of the Year.
On her own, Morgan broke several school individual records. She hit .595, with her average dipping below .600 in the final games of the Elite 8 Tourney. She led the county this year with a school record seven home runs, 19 doubles, 69 hits, an on-base percentage of .729, and a slugging percentage of .991.
Morgan had her best game of the year in the second round of the playoffs against Creekview. In game two, she went 3-for-3 with three home runs, also a school record.
“What she did at the plate this year was one of the most unbelievable things I have been able to witness,” Harper said. “People don’t understand the work she puts into it. She is a great example of what hard work can do.”
Morgan was not just a great hitter for the Lady Panthers this season. She also played solid defense in center field and was a solid No. 2 pitcher behind Darby Demarest. Morgan completed the year in the circle with a 13-2 record. She posed a 2.85 ERA over 103 innings of work. Morgan struck out 133 and walked 30.
“She created more runs at the plate than we have ever had but she also saved a lot of runs at the other end,” Harper said. “Her softball knowledge was invaluable to the team. She does a lot of things that make a big difference and she is willing to not do too much. She will take the double to the opposite field instead of trying for the home run. She sees the situation and performs in them.”
While Morgan pitched well this year, no one came even close to dominating like Demarest. The senior earns the 2014 DCS Pitcher of the Year honor. Demarest posted a 1.37 ERA, the lowest in the county, in 123 innings of work. She finished the year with a 19-4 record. Demarest struck out 154 batters and walked only 37. Opponents hit .140.
“Darby showed great senior leadership and the way she was able to perform in her final year at this level was remarkable to me,” Harper said. “She started so many games and was solid and when she had to come into games late she was just as good.”
Because of his team’s county dominance and run deep into the playoffs, Harper is named the 2014 DCS Coach of the Year. The Lady Panthers picked up one win in the Elite 8 Tourney, beating Columbus on opening day. However, the team lost to the eventual state champions, Greenbrier, later that evening and were then knocked out of the tourney by Harris County on day two.
“The honor makes me proud but I have said this many times, 99 percent of what makes a good coach is really good players, and I had really good players,” Harper said. “Knowing when to bunt or swing away are important but even if you make the right decision, if the kids do not perform in them then it doesn’t matter. This year, even when I made the wrong decision, the kids bailed me out and performed.”
Harper added that he is also only as good as his coaching staff, which included Bobby Nail, Tim Trowell, and Doug Allen.
While overshadowed by Chapel Hill, Alexander also had a great 2014, which culminated in a school first when the Lady Cougars were able to win one out of three games in the second round of the playoffs against what was then the No. 1 team in the state, Cambridge. Cambridge went on to lose to Greenbier in a two game championship series.
The Lady Cougars finished the season with a 23-13 record behind pitcher Sydnee Council, who broke the single season school strikeout record with 177 in 155 innings of work.
“IT was another successful year and to my knowledge this was the first time the program has had back-to-back 20 win seasons,” said AHS coach Zack Graham. “I felt like we had a great shot at being in Columbus but I wouldn’t say we underachieved. We just ran into a team that would go on to make it to the state championship game. This team went further than any other team before it.”
Graham went on to talk about his starting pitcher and four year varsity starter.
“Pitching wise, this was the best year Sydnee has had. Offensively, she had better years but over her career, she is in a special category that only a handful of players reach,” Graham said. “She does not like losing and is an exceptional talent. She is in that eight percent of high school players that will get to play at the college level and she will play at a D-I school.”
Both Chapel Hill and Alexander make up the entire 2014 DCS First Team list and most of the Second Team list. Seven Lady Panthers were named to the First Team and three were named to the Second Team. Alexander had four First Team nods and six Second Team selections.
“Alexander was a team that scared the mess out of me to play this year,” Harper said. “The way they swing the bat and the way Sydnee pitches, You feel very fortunate every time you step on the field against them and come away with a win. I have the upmost respect for Zack and the way his team plays and I love the rivalry.”
Graham continued the praises toward the rival school.
“Chapel Hill had a great team that was obviously well coached,” Graham said. “Those jokers never quit. They get behind and somehow they find a way to battle back and win the game. It shows a lot of character, grit and determination. That mental edge to battle back is in each player, but also comes down the coaching staff and what they are able to do. I have learned a lot from Mick over the years and was apart of some of the good teams he has had, but I hate losing to them. They were a good ball club and I liked playing them.”
2014 DCS ALL-COUNTY
Team of the Year
Coach of the Year
Player of the Year
Hitter of the Year
Pitcher of the Year
(P) Darby Demarest, CHHS
- See Article
(C) Bella Caricari, CHHS
- Caricari hit .327 this season while anchoring a solid pitching staff, led by this season’s Pitcher of the year. She had a .451 on-base percentage and a .531 slugging percentage. Caricari had 13 extra base hits, including three home runs, and she scored 22 times, while knocking in 28 runs. Caricari broke the school record for getting hit by a pitch the most time in a single season. Showing the toughness she demonstrated behind the plate, Caricari finished the year with 11 bruises and luckily no broken bones.
(1B) Hallie Rutledge, CHHS
- Rutledge, a senior, was third on the Chapel Hill team with a .461 batting average. She had a .533 on-base percentage and a .784 slugging percentage. Rutledge tied for second in the county with six home runs. She had 20 extra base hits, knocked in 52 runs, and scored 24 times. She also walked 15 times.
(2B) Katie Byrd, AHS
- Byrd committed only six errors at second base this season for Alexander. She hit well enough in the bottom of the order, knocking in 10 runs and scoring 10 times. She showed an eye at the plate, walking nine times.
(3B) Gracyn Thrasher, AHS
- While manning the hot corner for Alexander, Thrasher hit .390 this season, with an on-base percentage of .431 and slugging percentage of .650. She struck out only six times in 100 at-bats. Thrasher led the team with 14 doubles. She knocked in 37 runs and scored 22 times. She finished the year with two home runs.
(SS) Savana Sikes, CHHS
- Only a freshman, Sikes was not even supposed to play full-time at the varsity level this season. However, that changed once the coaches had a chance to see what she could provide. Sikes hit .452 this season with an on-base percentage of .569 and a slugging percentage of .722. She tied for second in the county with 50 runs scored and finished with 37 RBIs. She walked (9) more than she struck out (6), and had five home runs. She had three game winning hits, including two by home run, one of which came against a Pope pitcher earlier in the year, who was considered one of the best pitchers in the nation.
(OF) Ashley Morgan, CHHS
- See Article
(OF) Shelby Robinson, CHHS
- Robinson found a way to reach base when it mattered most in 2014. She finished the year with a .469 battling average and a .589 on-base percentage. She led the county with 55 singles, which were nearly as good as an extra base hit because she also led the county with 44 steals. She tied Sikes for second in the county with 50 runs scored. She knocked in 17 runs. She also made only one error in the outfield.
(OF) Natalie Johnson, AHS
- Johnson, who hit .421 this season, had the highest batting average on the Alexander squad for an everyday starter. She had a .457 on-base percentage and a .561 slugging percentage. She walked (8) more times than she struck out (5), and had 11 extra base hits, including one home run. She scored 30 runs and knocked in 18.
(U) Tali Milde, AHS
- Milde, who received a scholarship offer from Auburn, was one of the hottest postseason hitters this year. In total, she finished 2014 with a .389 batting average, a .426 on-base percentage, and a .621 slugging percentage. Milde had four home runs, scored 33 times, and knocked in 20 runs. She struck out only three times this season, and committed just seven errors at shortstop.
(EH) Malynn Haven, CHHS
- Haven supplied the power for Chapel Hill this season out of the extra hitter spot. She hit .290, with a .445 on-base percentage and .516 slugging percentage. She tied Rutledge for second in the county with six home runs. She walked 11 times.
(P) Sydnee Council, AHS
(C) Faith Shirley, AHS
(1B) Josie Nunn, AHS
(2B) Quinn Mitchell, CHHS
(3B) Anna Aulgur, CHHS
(SS) Sierra McDowell, LSHS
(OF) Trinity Kirkland, AHS
(OF) Makenzie Buck, AHS
(OF) Kayla Alexander, CHHS
(U) Ashley Reyes, DCHS
(EH) Kaitlyn Gibson, AHS
(AHS) Amanda Shore, (DCHS) Talia Hudson, Courtney Hans, (LSHS) Olivia Page, Sydney McCune, Montaiya Burch, and Payton Welch