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Prep softball notes: Three Gwinnett teams earn national recognition

With Georgia being one of only a handful of states that plays high school softball in the fall, it’s difficult for state schools to get recognition in national polls, which usually come out during the spring season.

However, MaxPreps has begun publishing a set of national rankings for schools in states that play in the all, and Georgia schools — including several from Gwinnett County — are well represented in the most recently released poll.

Buford (14-1) is the highest-ranked of 18 Georgia teams in the top 25 at No. 2 nationally, just one spot behind top-ranked Papillon-La Vista High School of Papillon, Neb.

The latest rankings came out before Collins Hill (10-2) completed a very good week that included handing Buford its first loss of the season Sept. 7, as well as scoring an important Region 7-AAAAAA win at home against Mill Creek last Thursday.

Nonetheless, led by the pitching duo of Amanda Chance and Aeshia Miles, veterans like Brea Dickey, Calli Star and Laine Simmons at the plate and solid defense, the Eagles currently stand at No. 8 in the MaxPreps national poll.

“It is a big honor, but I really don’t know how they come up with (the rankings),” Collins Hill coach Paul Pierce said. “We’re just trying to take it one game at a time because anybody can get beat on any given day, especially in our region. We’ve just been able to put together several games where we’ve gotten at least two of the three (elements of the game) very good. Our pitching’s been solid all year. It’s given us a chance to win every night, and we’ve taken advantage of some opportunities.”

North Gwinnett is the other Gwinnett team represented in the MaxPrep national poll, with the Bulldogs (12-2) currently at No. 14.

Comeback kids

There are also a pair of Gwinnett teams who, while not ranked, are currently among the state’s hottest teams after overcoming slow starts to the season.

A 3-0 win over Dacula last Thursday not only gave Brookwood (10-9, 5-1) its ninth win in the last 12 games, it also secured the Broncos the Region 8-AAAAAA regular season championship.

Buoyed by the battery of sophomore pitcher Amanda Ablan and senior catcher Taiylor Rinehart, the Broncos have overcome a start in which they dropped their first five games and six of their first seven against a brutally-tough non-region slate.

“I just give all the credit to our kids,” Brookwood coach Bill Batchelor said. “It would’ve been easy for them to tuck their heads down early on. All of our kids were at travel ball until school started, and it takes time to (jell) as a team, especially having to replace 10 seniors. They were patient with (the coaches) and we were patient with them.”

Equally patient has been Wesleyan (8-5 overall, 3-0 in Region 6-AA), which has won six of its last eight heading into a pair of games at Mercer University in Macon on Saturday, after starting the season 2-4.

It’s no secret the biggest key in the Wolves’ turnaround has been its bats, particularly the power of a now-healthy Landyn Duley, who is hitting .513 with two home runs, 11 RBIs, seven total extra-base hits, eight stolen bases and a 1.424 OPS after missing much of last year with a foot injury, as well as senior Dacia Jones (.361, 1 HR, 13 RBIs, 7 SB), junior Riley Henning (.250, 8 RBIs) and freshman Jameson Cavel.

“Hitting is contagious,” Wesleyan coach Nichole Dixon said. “We’ve always tried to hit a lot in practice. IF we can hit, we keep giving ourselves a chance to win.

“Landyn’s been a great addition (to this year’s line-up). She’s a very explosive hitter, and she’s worked really hard in the offseason. It’s good to see her timing back.”

Mighty McGregor

At 7-10 overall and 3-5 in Region 7-AAAAAA, this has been an unusually rough season so far for Peachtree Ridge.

But one individual who has stood out for the Lions this year is infielder Andie McGregor, who is in her fourth year on the varsity team.

The senior is currently hitting .347 with 12 RBIs and 11 runs scored, but has been just as strong in the classroom as she’s been on the field, carrying a 4.0 grade-point average.