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Softball: Five players to watch in 2018
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South Forsyth's Makenna Segal reacts coming into home plate after hitting a home run against North Forsyth on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. - photo by Brian Paglia

In high school sports, it happens: A standout senior graduates, and the space they left can’t quite be filled. The graduation of Lambert’s Marissa Guimbarda in 2017 left the county without an eminently dangerous home run threat, and with Kassidy Krupit now headed to college at Baylor, there isn’t an obvious two-year superstar to fill her spot. (And no past Player/Pitcher of the Year, like Krupit was entering her senior season.)

That’s not to say there isn’t talent in the county, particularly among the younger players. Last season was a very strong one for county sophomores, with two on the All-County first team and four on the second team, and any one of those players looks to have the potential to become a premier producer.

Someone is going to rise to the occasion, and they’ll be doing it their own way.

Brooke Miller, Lambert, Jr.

Miller’s potential has already largely been fulfilled, but there’s still a tantalizing suggestion of much more to come. The infielder was named All-County as a freshman, when she hit .383 with six doubles and five home runs, and she got off to a fleet stat to her sophomore season and committed to North Carolina in the middle of September. Miller’s high school season was snarled by injury, though, and she missed a large portion of the team’s games in the middle part of the season. Lambert will again try to rebound from the loss of an impact bat with fall, with Kassidy Krupit having moved on to the college ranks, and a resurgence by Miller would greatly aid the Longhorns’ chances of staying in the county’s upper echelon.

Makenna Segal, South Forsyth, So.

Lambert was the odds-on favorite to repeat as region softball champs last fall, with most of the pieces from the Longhorns’ 15-0 region run in 2016 coming back. One of the roadblocks that the Longhorns hit, though, was a youth surge from South that helped the War Eagles take the title and No. 1 playoff seed for themselves. Segal was one of the main drivers of that, hitting .405 with eight homers and 35 RBIs as a freshman. With the return of players like Segal, junior Izzy Hui and Baccari, South looks to have a decent chance of maintaining its place in the region.

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North Forsyth's Mallorie Black, left, gets ready to tag Lambert's Brooke Miller at second base Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. - photo by Ian Frazer

Mallorie Black, North Forsyth, Jr.

Black was one of the main drivers of a North offense that was the most productive in the region last year, as the Raiders scored 88 runs, six more than region champ Lambert. Black, a Georgia Tech commit, was a nifty top-of-the-order bat for North, hitting .478 with 14 extra-base hits. The loss of seniors like Madelyn Oliver, Haley Simpson and Payton Martin gives the Raiders something to overcome heading into 2018, but with the return of Black and sophomore Ashleigh Grace, who hit .461 as a freshman, it’s easy to imagine North filling up the scoreboard again.

Bailey McCachren, Forsyth Central, Jr.

The Bulldogs’ playoff debut in Class 7A last season came after an offseason of intense work led by then-head coach Kaelin Stevens, but the emergence of one McCachren as one of the top pitchers in the region certainly helped as well. The left-hander blossomed as a sophomore, recording a 1.83 ERA with 138 strikeouts in 126 innings, and she committed in December to play in college at Campbell. Paul Cromie, the Bulldogs’ new head coach, won a state title as an assistant at North Gwinnett in 2016, and he has aspirations of making a similar run with Central. With players like McCachren, catcher Grace Kizer and outfielder Sadie Waters coming back, the cupboard certainly isn’t bare for him.

Lauren Baccari, South Forsyth, Sr.

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South Forsyth's Lauren Baccari throws a pitch against North Forsyth on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. - photo by Brian Paglia

The War Eagles’ balanced lineup was certainly a driving force in their region title run last year, with their total of 82 runs scored ranking second among region teams, but they couldn’t have claimed the title without a stalwart like Baccari in the circle. The Berry College commit threw 37 complete games on the season, compiling a 2.12 ERA over 158 1/3 innings as she took over for Katherine Huey as South’s ace. Having now experienced that workload, the ingredients are there for Baccari to take another step forward and contend for Pitcher of the Year.

Others to watch: Hannah Guthrie, West Forsyth, Sr.; Lindsey Nelson, So., Lambert; Kelsey Schell, West Forsyth, Sr.; Ashleigh Grace, North Forsyth, So.;