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Patriots face uphill battle
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Heritage High School softball coach Jason McBay spent the month of June hosting a summer camp and leading his team in summer league ball.

Summer league softball was in Walnut Grove. The Patriots played a doubleheader one night a week, if they weren't playing in a game they were practicing, running 2-on-1s and/or in the weight room.

"It's a good time to evaluate what you have coming up. It's an opportunity to give the girls situations that you want to see them in," McBay said. "The games don't really count other than getting better and improving or just seeing what certain people can do in different situations. I like that aspect of it. The part that I don't like is vacations and not having your whole team or everybody there at the same time."

The Patriots went 26-7 last year, but they lost five seniors and are looking to be in what most people would deem a transition year. All five had an opportunity to play college ball, but two chose not to.

"A lot of people think we're going to be down and we're not going to be very deep, but I like our team," McBay said. "I think we're going to be scrappy. I think we're going to have to work hard. I try to always get my teams to work hard, but I think this team bought into [the idea that] we're going to have to turn it up a notch in every category. Working harder, trying to do a better job of getting along and being cohesive. They've kind of embraced that."

"A lot of coaches talk about rebuilding years and that's not a term that I use," Mcbay said. "I don't really buy into that. I think you have your system and if your players buy into it you can find a way to win. That's what I still expect. Just cause we lost those players, it's time for five other ones to step up in their place."

Losing five good players is definitely going to affect the team's play, and for McBay this season is going to be about finding a player to step up and provide the leadership that those five players provided.

"We're a little more inexperienced. We'll have to have leadership, probably from some underclassmen. We still have quite a bit of players that play a lot; that play on travel teams and do a lot of things outside of our program, and some of those players will have to step up," McBay said.

"It'll take some senior leadership. That's one thing this summer that we don't really have yet. I'm still kind of waiting for the seniors just to lead. I don't think seniors necessarily have to lead. That's one thing that's a little different," McBay said. "I've kind of evolved a little bit too. This will be my third year so each year I kind of add a little bit. We really worked harder in the weight room this year than we have the previous two years. I think we're going to make up some ground in that category."

McBay said he uses the summer schedule to experiment with his lineups and try different things. He also uses it for team building. On Wednesday, McBay took his team up to Helen to play some miniature golf, have a picnic and hike a waterfall.

"If we're successful this year it's going to be because of pitching and defense. Offensively, we'll have to manufacture some runs and get timely hits. I think we'll be really competitive with our pitching and our defense," McBay said.

McBay added that his personal goal every year is to win 30 games, and he always has the belief that his team can pull it off.

"We're going to set the same goals that we set last year, which is to win region. Realistically, do I think we have a shot at that? Yeah, I really do. I think that if we play the type of ball that we're capable of we can continue to be that type of elite program that we've been the last two years," McBay said.

"Whatever the record says in the end, we'll let it speak for itself."

The Patriots's first official game will be in the South Gwinnett tournament beginning August 7.