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Softball: Six players to watch for this fall

Any time a team returns key starters from the year before, there’s a sense of optimism for the year ahead.

That’s a feeling that some county softball teams have good reason to share heading into the fall. Last year’s All-County Player and Pitcher of the Year are back for the upcoming 2019 season, along with six first team all-county selections from last year. A good amount of them are familiar names that have led their team to successes in the past few years, but there are also a few newcomers mixed in that stand to make a difference as well.

Here are some players that could be competing for all-county honors again this fall.

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South Forsyth's Makenna Segal has been one of the region's most fearsome hitters this year, and her production could be key to a War Eagles playoff run. - photo by Ian Frazer

Makenna Segal, South Forsyth, Jr.

In just her sophomore season, Segal took a major step forward and put together one of the best offensive seasons in county history, earning All-County Player of the Year honors. The South third baseman hit .476 with 12 home runs, 31 RBIs and a .596 on-base percentage. The latter stat was padded a bit with how much respect opposing pitchers had for her. In South’s season opener against West Forsyth, Segal was intentionally walked three times, and for good reason – at one point, Segal had more home runs than any other kind of hit.

Segal began last year hot and cooled off a bit in region play, but with the amount of production and power she displayed in her second varsity season, she was still integral in South’s run to the second round of the playoffs. Segal now holds multiple school records at South, and the War Eagles have to be excited about her potential to get even better.

Forsyth Central pitcher Bailey McCachren delivers a pitch during the Bulldogs' game against Lambert on Aug. 23, 2018 at Lambert High School. McCachren had 15 strikeouts and allowed just one baserunner to reach in the 3-0 win. - photo by Ian Frazer

Bailey McCachren, Forsyth Central, Sr.

Forsyth Central put together another successful season last year, and McCachren’s dominance in the circle was one of the biggest reasons for it. There were times where she was almost unhittable – against Lambert on Aug. 23, a fourth inning bloop single was the only thing that stood between her and a perfect game.

The key to McCachren’s success is a dangerous riseball that she uses effectively as a putaway pitch. A Tennessee commit, she improved on her sophomore year with a 1.57 ERA with 142 strikeouts over 98 innings in 2018, and was selected as the All-County Pitcher of the Year. With the departures of lineup stalwarts Grace Kiser and Sadie Waters, McCachren’s arm may be even more of a factor in Central making another run to the postseason this year.

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North Forsyth's Mallorie Black crosses home plate during a region tournament game against South Forsyth. - photo by Lily McGregor Photography

Mallorie Black, North Forsyth, Sr.

North Forsyth’s offense was easily its region’s best last year, scoring 213 runs, 61 more than West Forsyth, who had the second most with 152. Black has been a factor in North’s offensive prowess in the last few years: In 2018, she led the Raiders at the plate with a .457 average with six home runs, 11 doubles and a 1.344 OPS. She’s set to play softball at Georgia Tech after her high school career is over. North has a good amount of returners, and if Black can keep her production going, not only does North have a chance to make a deeper run, she has a good chance of competing for All-County Player of the Year.

Jessie DeNardo, Denmark, So.

Denmark’s inaugural season of softball was a rough one: The Danes won the school’s first-ever athletic event against Johns Creek, but after that, they stumbled to a 3-17 record, winning just one region game. A lot of those struggles stemmed from the team’s youth, but DeNardo, a freshman last year, didn’t seem to share in any of that. She was a first-team all-county selection as a freshman and was a power threat in Denmark’s lineup, hitting .452 with five home runs. She’s already committed to play collegiate softball at Duke, but she has plenty of time before that to help turn the Danes into a contender.

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North Forsyth's Hailey Mize delivers a pitch during the Raiders' softball game against Forsyth Central on Sept. 18, 2018 at North Forsyth High School. - photo by Ian Frazer

Hailey Mize, North Forsyth, Jr.

Like Black, Mize was a standout piece in the middle of North’s dangerous batting order, hitting .443 with nine doubles. As the year went on, though, Mize found another way to contribute as a pitcher, and did well on that front, becoming the Raiders’ go-to arm with a 2.84 ERA over 91 innings pitched. Even on a team full of returners, Mize may be one of the more important factors in whether or not North can take the next step this year.

Morgan Kilmer, Denmark, Sr.

As one of the first seniors in the history of Denmark’s softball program, Kilmer will be attempting to help Denmark’s anemic offense improve after an inaugural year where they scored just 65 runs. That’s not to say that she didn’t do her part last year: In her junior season, she was frequently on the basepaths, hitting a staggering .571 with .667 on-base percentage. If Denmark is to take a step forward this year, Kilmer will no doubt be a big part of that.

Others to watch: Abby Martin, North Forsyth, Sr.; McKayla Cothran, North Forsyth, Jr.; Ansley Clark, Forsyth Central, Sr.; Sydney Moroney, Forsyth Central, Sr.; Lindsey Nelson, Lambert, Sr.