By Jeffery Armstrong
It's that time of the year. Several high school athletes will be out on the field, moving and sweating and working very hard to make the team. They will run, jump, throw and do whatever it takes to make the team.
High school football practice? No. High school softball practice.
Believe it or not, there's more to the fall sports scene than high school football. Today marks the earliest date for high school softball practice and several schools will feature tryouts for young ladies to make their teams.
Many of the girls who will make their respective softball teams have put in the time to get better before the high school season starts. They have played on summer softball teams, honing their skills to prepare them for the high school season.
Two area softball players who have been working hard to improve their games are rising sophomores Heather Lowry of Jonesboro and Lynleigh Hurndon of Union Grove. Both are members of the Georgia Extreme summer softball team.
Lowry, 15, is a talented pitcher who led the Cardinals to the state sectionals last season. She might put the Lady Cardinals of Jonesboro back in the playoffs this year, if her summer numbers are any indication. Lowry has an .034 earned run average for the Extreme and opponents have batted .074 against her. Despite those great numbers, Lowry, who throws in the mid 60s, wants to get even better once the high school season starts. She's been taking hitting lessons to complement her pitching talent.
"I'd like to have better movement on my pitches. I have good movement now, but hopefully I'll get even better," Lowry said. "I'd also like to become a better hitter than I was last year."
Lowry said playing summer ball has really prepared her for high school softball, especially now that she's a sophomore.
"Playing for the Extreme really gets me ready for school softball," she said. "It helps me with my pitching and I feel ready to play high school games."
Lowry's father Scott, an assistant coach for the Extreme, said that his daughter benefits greatly from summer ball.
"There's no ?trophy hunting' when we play in American Softball Association competition," he said. "We play the best teams from around the country, including Tennessee, Florida and Alabama. We want the girls to face the best players in the country."
The desire to be a better player is also the reason why Hurndon, 15, likes playing summer ball. The Union Grove catcher said playing for the Extreme helps her to become an even better backstop.
"Playing on this team has helped me be a better defensive player. As a high school catcher, you've got to be able to block the ball well," Hurndon said. "It also helps to play competition that you haven't seen before. You work that much harder to beat them and that attitude carries over in school ball."
Hurndon said she enjoys playing the somewhat-thankless position of catcher, noting that "not too many people want to do it."
"The reason I like playing catcher is because you are involved in every aspect of softball," she said. "There's pressure on you to call a good game and make good decisions behind the plate. It's a tough job, but I like it."
Hurndon said she'd like to be a better hitter, which is interesting since she received Union Grove's Best Offensive Player award last season. She batted .333 as a freshman and currently takes hitting lessons once a week.
Both Lowry and Hurndon look to play college softball in the future. They both favor the University of Georgia and other schools on their lists include Oklahoma University, Arizona and Florida State.