NORCROSS - Jessica Coan has come to know a lot about high expectations.
After all, she set the bar pretty high for her senior season with the Greater Atlanta Christian softball team by earning first-team All-County honors in her first three seasons with the Spartans.
That Coan and her teammates came up short of their ultimate goal - the Class AA state championship - after making the winner's bracket finals of the state tournament for the fourth straight year made for a disappointing end to the season.
However, the season the senior right-hander and the Spartans (36-3-1) had can hardly be considered a disappointment.
Coan had about as dominating a season as a pitcher could have in leading GAC to within to a few wins of the elusive state title, which made her the Daily Post's Pitcher of the Year.
She knew coming into the season she would be depended on a lot by her teammates.
"When I saw that the most was when we were in a tough situation - like when a lead was in jeopardy and one score might be our undoing," GAC coach Judy Tenney said of Coan. "That's when she was at her toughest, and it picked up the team a lot."
Despite knowing how much her team depended on her, Coan said she never let it affect her focus.
"The coaches and my teammate and my parents never put pressure on me," Coan said. "You always set personal goals, but you know there's going to be a bad pitch or a good hitter every now and then. It's part of the game.
"I took (missing the state title) as personally as anyone would. But softball is a team game. I know all I could do was my best."
Coan's best was pretty dominating. There were many times during the season that Coan seemed unhittable as she rolled up a 29-2 record with a save, a microscopic 0.26 ERA and 452 strikeouts against just 51 hits allowed in 2122â "3 innings.
"It's hard to play behind a power pitcher like (Coan) because you never know when (a hitter) would hit it," Tenney said. "But we also knew that if we could scratch out a run, we had a great chance to win. She had 25 shutouts this year. That's pretty amazing out of a 40-game schedule. But we had to be careful not to play for just one run. That's a habit we had to get out of."
While her teammates gave her plenty of runs throughout the year, that habit came back to haunt the Spartans in the winner's bracket final of the state tournament.
Buford freshman Melissa Dickie battled Coan pitch for pitch before Daily Post Player of the Year Ashley Razey connected for a grand slam to give the Wolves the victory en route to the title.
However, according to Razey, that didn't make Coan any easier to face.
"We played together in 12-and-under (travel) ball, and we've battled each other ever since," Razey said. "Whenever I'd face her, I tried to stay a little more focused. With her, you have to stay focused on every pitch, or else she'll blow it past you."
Focus is something Coan says she'll have to have plenty of as she takes her game to the next level.
She has signed a scholarship with Georgia Tech's nationally ranked program and hopes to become the latest in a recent line of strong Yellow Jacket pitchers, including Jessica Sallinger, the ACC's all-time strikeout leader and second on the conference's wins list. Coan admits it will be a tough task, especially throwing to a new catcher besides Mollie Mitchell - a fellow first-team All-County selection and Lipscomb signee who has caught her for many years.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Coan said of going to Tech, which she chose over similar offers from schools like Georgia, Alabama, Auburn and UNC Greensboro. "Mollie's my best friend. We can communicate with each other without even talking. But I've had different catchers in travel ball.
"It's always difficult adjusting to a new catcher, but I think it will go well."
So does Tenney, who is counting on Coan building a career at Tech every bit as impressive as the one she leaves behind at GAC.
"I have no doubt she will because she's gotten better every year, and I expect the same thing to happen for her in college," Tenney said. "Pitchers for many years to come will try to be the next Jessica Coan. We'll probably never see another one like her again, but I'd like to see them try. That's her biggest legacy."
Player of the Year: Ashley Razey, Buford, Sr.
Southern Mississippi signee hit .510 with 10 HRs, 47 RBIs, a .961 slugging pct. and .598 on-base pct.
Pitcher of the Year: Jessica Coan, GAC, Sr.
The Georgia Tech signee went 29-2 with a save, a 0.26 ERA and 452 strikeouts in 212 2/3 innings. She also hit .342 with 1 HR and 19 RBIs at the plate.
Coach of the Year: Tony Wolfe, Buford.
Led the Wolves to their first Class AA state championship - and first state title in any girls sport - in his first season coaching softball.
' Morgan Bullock, Mill Creek, Jr.
20-4, 0.71, also hit .441 with 20 SB and 32 R
' Mandi Burns, Grayson, Sr.
22-5, 0.89, 238 K, 180 IP
' Krysten Connelly, Peachtree Ridge, Jr.
19-7, 1.25, 161 K, 183 IP
' Melissa Higginbotham, Buford, Sr.
18-3, 1.15, 101 K, 1271â "3 IP, also hit .308 with 14 RBIs, 31 R
' Shannon Bear, Grayson, Sr.
.350, 2 HR, 29 RBIs, 35 R, .553 slugging pct., .532 on-base pct., 7 SB
' Hayley Downs, Grayson, So.
.444, 10 RBIs, 38 R, .500 slugging pct., .549 on-base pct., 7 SB
' Hannah Graham, Mill Creek, Jr.
.360, 26 RBIs, 26 R, .928 fielding pct.
' Kacey Martin, North Gwinnett, Jr.
.374, 22 RBIs, 17 R, 6 SB, 9 2Bs, .980 fielding pct.
' Mollie Mitchell, GAC, Sr.
.346, 6 HR, 36 RBIs, .720 slugging pct., .455 on-base pct., 39 R, 21 BB
' Alysha Rudnik, Buford, So.
.380, 5 HR, 43 RBIs, 6 3Bs, 32 R, .636 slugging pct., .445 on-base pct.
' Amberlie Saxton, Mill Creek, Jr.
.480, 8 HR, 39 RBIs, 32 R, 11 2Bs, 4 3Bs
' Gabby Bedard, Peachtree Ridge, So.
.323, 35 R, 25 SB
' Brittany Broome, North Gwinnett, Jr.
.374, 38 R, 38 SB (county record), 4 outfield assists, 5 RBIs
' Catherine Palmer, Collins Hill, Sr.
.344, 2 HR, 15 RBIs, 6 2Bs, 19 R, 4 SB, .969 fielding pct., 6 outfield assists.
' Erin Collins, Collins Hill, Sr.
' Kelly Croxton, Parkview, Sr.
' Kylie Kleinschmidt, Providence Christian, Fr.
' Mary Beth O'Rouke, North Gwinnett, Sr.
' Callie Fernandez, Peachtree Ridge, Jr.
' Courtney Folsom, Parkview, Sr.
' Whitney Holman, Buford, Jr.
' Kelsea Martin, Dacula, Jr.
' Heidi Shape, Norcross, So.
' Whitney Warren, Wesleyan, Sr.
' Julia Westbrook, Brookwood, So.
' Devin Dossman, Mill Creek, Jr.
' Alex Rogers, Mill Creek, Jr.
' Emily Whitaker, North Gwinnett, Sr.