JONESBORO — The 2017 high school softball season begins next week. Several local squads will look to return to the state playoffs after strong seasons a year ago. Below is a preview of the upcoming season.
Drew Lady Titans
Head Coach: Chris Smith
2016 Record: 1-23
Outlook: The Lady Titans struggled last season as a young team in Region 4-AAAAAA. Drew had only one senior — Torria Powell — on the roster in 2016. A year of experience for a team that fielded 10 underclassmen last season should lead to more wins in 2017.
Forest Park Lady Panthers
Head Coach: Courtney Stovall
2016 Record: 10-8-2
Outlook: The Lady Panthers were competitive last season, finishing with a winning record and narrowly missing out on a state playoff spot. This season, Forest Park returns most of last year’s squad, including All-County selections Daysi Guardado and Valencia Belt.
Jonesboro Lady Cardinals
Head Coach: Martina Orr
2016 Record: 8-11-1
Outlook: Jonesboro, who qualified for the Class AAAAAA state playoffs last season, is another team in the county that featured underclassmen in 2016. The return of All-County selection Nia Smith will give the Lady Cardinals a reliable option on the mound. Jonesboro will also welcome back sophomore Camilla Crooks, junior Shydarria Arnold and seniors Joy Dankin and Destiny Brown.
Lovejoy Lady Wildcats
Head Coach: Chris Taylor
2016 Record: 14-8
Outlook: The Lady Wildcats had a fantastic season in 2016, finishing 14-8 and qualifying for the Class AAAAAA state playoffs. The good news for Lovejoy is that most of the core from last year’s team is returning in 2017, except for All-County selection Alexis McLemore (.389, 31 RBIs.) Senior Jenelle Cockerham (.480, 27 R, 3.10 ERA, 67.2 IP) will lead the team on the mound and at the plate. She will be joined by Yakeri Lamar (.382, 29 R), Jayla Harper, Karmon Jackson-Bell and Amaya Grier.
Morrow Lady Mustangs
Head Coach: Candice Jones
2016 Record: 2-19
Outlook: The Lady Mustangs struggled in the competitive Region 3-AAAAA last season but should play better in 2017 with the graduation of just one senior. The returns of All-County selections sophomore K’Yanna Wimbish (.455, 19 RBIs) and junior Seymone Dargan (.346, 23 RBIs), as well as starting pitcher Arianna Smith (58 IP) will give head coach Candice Jones a strong core to build around.
Mount Zion Lady Bulldogs
Head Coach: Nicholas Carroll
2016 Record: 6-11
Outlook: The Lady Bulldogs finished 2016 with a losing record but ended the season with three wins in their last five games, including run-rule victories over Region 4-AAAAAA opponents Drew and MLK in the final two games. Head coach Nicholas Carroll will hope to see his team finish closer to a .500 record this season.
Head Coach: Shaka Owens
2016 Record: 21-3-1
Outlook: The 2016 Mundy’s Mill Lady Tigers set the bar for Clayton County teams. Mundy’s Mill won Region 4-AAAAAA and finished with a 21-3-1 record. Several key pieces are returning in 2017 for the Lady Tigers, including Clayton County Pitcher of the Year Tracy Mosley (16-1, 0.49 ERA, 183 K) and Clayton County Player of the Year Azli Strozier (.686, 44 R, 48 SB). All-County selections Aliyah Murphy (.556, 26 R, 1.94 ERA) and Natalie Mendoza (.397, 29 R) will also be back for head coach Shaka Owens.
North Clayton Lady Eagles
Head Coach: LaTonya McClendon
2016 Record: 4-12
Outlook: North Clayton finished the 2016 record with a 4-12 record and a 1-11 mark in Region 4-AAAA. The Lady Eagles were competitive in several of their region losses, and will be looking to win a few of those close games this season.
Riverdale Lady Raiders
Head Coach: Dustin Dalton
2016 Record: 3-16
Outlook: The Lady Raiders finished with a 2-10 record in Region 3-AAAAA play last season. Three seniors graduated from last year’s team, including All-County selection Deasia Parson. Riverdale does have a strong contingent of juniors returning in Dayyani Woods (.391), Melissa Campbell (.333) and Sasha Wright.
Noteworthy: Led Lovejoy to state playoff appearance with 3.10 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 67 innings, also led the team with a .480 batting average and 27 RBIs, was named to All-County and All-Region teams
Noteworthy: Hit .382 with 29 runs scored for the Lady Wildcats as a sophomore last season, also stole 24 bases, named to All-County and All-Region teams
Team: Mundy’s Mill
Noteworthy: Went 16-1 with a 0.49 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 86 innings pitched last season, struck out 63 percent of the batters she faced, also hit .627 with 27 runs scored, named Clayton County and Region 4-AAAAAA Pitcher of the Year
Team: Mundy’s Mill
Noteworthy: Hit .556 with 26 runs scored and 33 stolen bases as a junior last season, posted a 1.94 ERA and struck out 40 hitters in 18 innings on the mound, named to All-Region and All-County teams
Team: Mundy’s Mill
Noteworthy: Hit .686 and led the county in runs (44) and stolen bases (48), hit safely in all but two games last season and struck out only twice, named Clayton County Player of the Year
Noteworthy: Hit .455 and drove in 19 runs as a freshman last season, led Morrow in runs scored and home runs, named to All-County and All-Region teams