ELLENWOOD, Ga. — Alcovy softball coach Kelli Wesley wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from her team’s first outing against an opponent that wasn’t themselves.
But, with Thursday's 16-2 win over fairly overmatched Class AAA Cedar Grove, Wesley got exactly what she’d hoped for.
“I’m pleased with what I saw,” said Wesley, who saw her first live game action as Alcovy’s coach. “There’s always room for improvement. But I saw team unity, not getting down when making mistakes. I saw them lifting each other. I saw them encouraging each other. I saw them hitting the ball and executing plays.”
The Lady Tigers jumped out ahead of Cedar Grove quickly, racing to an 8-0 lead at the end of the first inning. Timely hitting, smart base running and a plethora of Cedar Grove errors helped the Tigers double that score by the time the game was called in the fifth inning by way of run rule.
Wesley mentioned several of her players whose bats were impressive, including sophomore infielder Talacia Thompson and senior Emma Waddell.
But sophomore pitcher McKenzie Rodgers raised eyebrows by way of her versatility. Rodgers threw a complete game in the circle, while also adding to the Alcovy offense with timely hits behind the plate. She also made several key plays defensively.
“She played very, very well,” Wesley said. “She applied the calls. She executed those and made any adjustments that were needed. Whenever she needed to hit the ball, she did that very well. It was just a good, all-around performance for her.”
With just two seniors on this years squad — Wydale and left fielder Holly Batson are the only ones — Wesley will be looking for younger players like Rodgers and Thompson to grow up quickly.
Although the game was officially a scrimmage, the first year head coach said it felt good to see her team put practice into live play against another opponent. The performance at Cedar Grove gives the Tigers something to build on as the regular season begins Monday with a trip to Madison, GA to play a Morgan County team that finished 26-12 overall and 9-1 in Region 8-AAA.
But after losing seven seniors from last year’s Sweet 16 squad, the Lady Bulldogs are in a similar situation as Alcovy with a younger bunch taking the field in 2017.
Wesley takes refuge in the fact, however, that though this is her first high school head coaching job, her time coaching at Liberty Hill Middle gives her familiarity with her current group of players.
“I coached some of these girls when they were at Liberty,” she said. “I was at Liberty Middle to help bring in the first championship there. So there’s a level of comfort, and I know their strengths and weaknesses. I’ve seen them grow and seen their development.”
Wesley has also taken note of her own places of improvement as a coach, and takes pride in her ability to place people around her who can help her make the team better.
“Sometimes I get too aggressive at third base, so we have our lay coach, Brian Lee there, while I am at first,” she said. “He helps out a lot, and his daughter, Gwen Lee was the one making some of those great plays at second base.”
Wesley won’t allow herself or her team to become over confident, however. She said plans to put the team right back to work, in hopes of getting better and developing a penchant for finishing games strong.
“We’ll work on everything,” she said. “You have to continue to strive to get to a higher level. If you get 16 runs in one game, then you want to get 20 the next. You can’t get comfortable and complacent, because that’s when somebody will take you down.”