Photo by Gabriel Stovall
Stockbridge pitcher Camillia Carter had 12 strikeouts last week in a win at Jonesboro. The junior says she’s excited about the Tigers’ best start since the 2006 team that went to the state tournament.
The last time a Stockbridge softball team started a season undefeated was in 2006.
That Tigers bunch finished 26-7 overall, 14-2 in their region complete with an appearance to the state tournament where they lost 1-0 to Lakesid-Evans in the quarterfinals.
That Stockbridge squad started its season 4-0.
This year’s team, just six games into the season, is unbeaten and has already eclipsed its win total of both the 2011 and 2010 seasons.
Is this early good fortune a sign of past softball success making its way back to Stockbridge?
Second year assistant coach Englis Hunter seems to think so.
“I definitely see the growth,” Hunter said. “There’s definitely a change.”
And it’s not just the coaches who are taking notice.
“The whole school is buzzing,” said Hunter, who last coached baseball and basketball coach at Towers before joining head coach Jim Hilleary’s staff at Stockbridge.
“Our principal is regularly asking who we’re playing from week to week, and some of the school’s staff have even been to a couple of the games.”
The resurgence of the Tigers program comes after five long years of futility — including five straight losing seasons after playoff appearances in 2004 and 2006.
For a little perspective, consider this: In 2004, the Tigers won 33 games, including the region championship game and two playoff contests.
From 2007-2011, Stockbridge has won just 30 games combined with no playoff appearances or region titles to speak of.
What has been the difference?
Junior pitcher Camillia Carter sums it up in a word.
“Attitude,” Carter said. “We’ve brought a great attitude into this season and it really keeps the mentality up.”
Part of that mental toughness showed itself last Thursday when Stockbridge travelled to Jonesboro to face a Cardinals team hungry to show it’s readiness to compete in Region 4-AAAA.
Stockbridge barely escaped victorious after a 5-4 win. Carter had 12 strikeouts in the game. But it was the Tigers’ ability to keep fighting through adversity that Carter attributes to the reason why they won a game that perhaps would’ve been lost in years past.
“We just kept our bats going no matter what,” she said. “And we have a lot of speed and that helped us do some aggressive base running.”
Hunter said that tenacity has been the difference so far in this young season.
“They’ve just brought a work ethic here this year,” Hunter said. “They believe in each other. It’s a slow process developing that attitude of winning, but they are getting out here and becoming confident.”
The Tigers have a good mix of youth and experience, Hunter said. And everybody seems to be feeding off of each other, regardless of age.
“You see the mixture of younger and older players, and they are really gelling and coming together,” Hunter said. “They are taking ownership in each other. Lots of encouragement. We give encouragement when we make a mistake. We give encouragement when we do good.”
Part of that encouragement, Carter said, also means keeping this young season’s success in the proper perspective.
Sure, she wants the same thing for her team that all high school athletes desire — regional titles and contention for state championships. But she said there’s also a bigger picture for the Tigers to pursue.
“This year we really want to make regions,” Carter said. “We don’t want to make too big of a goal for state this year. If we can make regions this year, I think with all of the players we have coming back, next year will really be the start of something that’s going to be great.”