All six Cherokee County softball teams fall into two highly competitive regions for the upcoming season, but there will be an especially close eye on Region 7AAAAAA after each of the top three teams came from the county.
Creekview, Sequoyah and River Ridge went a combined 35-7 in region play a year ago, with Creekview claiming the top spot at 12-2. The Lady Grizzlies also had the best overall record in the county at 26-7.
Coach Jennifer Maloney said she has a very close group of players heading into the season. The Lady Grizzlies taking the field in 2021 already have several years of experience playing together at a high level.
Maloney added that her unit features a special group of senior leaders. That senior leadership is spread across all levels of the field with Ashton Schroyer in the outfield, Sammi Martin behind the plate and Ella Campbell patrolling the infield.
Sequoyah also finished 12-2 in the region but lost the tiebreaker based on runs scored. The Lady Chiefs ended with an overall record of 22-8, falling in the first round of the playoffs to eventual state champion Lassiter.
Coach Lane Whitley is confident that catcher and shortstop Molly Stevens, a Reinhardt commit, will be a significant factor for this season’s squad.
This season, the Lady Chiefs are expected to be strong in the field, returning five juniors who can all contribute in the outfield. Senior Abby Schreiner can also anchor the defense from the catcher spot and both corner infield positions.
“We have a deep pitching staff again this season and return a lot of strong bats,” Whitley said. “Defensively, we should be really solid.”
River Ridge is returning nine starters from last year’s group that went 25-8-1 overall. The Lady Knights were 11-3 in the region and 7-2 within the county. Their season ended last year with a loss to Buford in the second round.
Team chemistry will be a strength for the Lady Knights as continuity becomes a factor.
“This is their seventh year playing together at River Ridge,” coach Andrew Marinelli said. “That, to me, is very special. Half the battle is having team chemistry. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you do not have chemistry, it will not work.”
The other three county schools — Cherokee, Etowah and Woodstock — reside in Region 5AAAAAAA. This half of the group was not as dominant last season. but they have promise, with Etowah leading the pack.
The Lady Eagles were 24-5 overall last season, ending as region champion and reaching the final eight in the state tournament in Columbus. Etowah’s only loss in the county was to River Ridge.
Coach Victoria Carter said her team has a great mixture of junior and senior leadership, including some experienced players coming back to patrol the infield and outfield. The difference for the Lady Eagles this season could be the talented group of incoming freshmen who will both push the older players and make an immediate impact themselves.
The infield will feature senior Brionna Condon, a South Carolina commit, at second base. Carter said two freshmen to keep an eye on are infielders Katelyn VanGalder and Isabella Eskew.
“We are going to be a different team than in previous years,” Carter said, “but this group is willing to work hard and play for each other to achieve our goals.”
Cherokee is looking to improve on a 15-13 overall record last season, with a runner-up finish in the region. The Lady Warriors fell in the first round of the state playoffs, but coach Tonya Carlisle believes this season will show a deeper and better Cherokee team.
“We are excited about the talented group of young ladies on this year’s team,” Carlisle said. “The amount of talent and depth on the 2021 team ranks at the top of the teams that have come through this program. They have been working extremely hard over the past year and are ready to compete.”