The 2020 season saw the North Oconee High School softball team earn a spot in the state playoffs and then advance into the Sweet 16 round.
It also brought numerous postseason awards to the team. The Lady Titans had seven players named to the Region 8-AAAA all-region lists at the conclusion of the season.
“It was great,” North Oconee head coach Billy Dooley said regarding his team’s representation in the region. “Our region is very good. Everybody who made the playoffs made it to the second round and I think Madison County made it to the third round. It's very competitive in and out with a lot of good pitching. For some of our girls to have the offensive numbers that they did, I thought that was great.”
North Oconee’s representatives on the all-region first team were Casey Holloway, Cameron Harkey and Maddie Johnson. Caroline Branch and Carsyn Bassett placed on the second team while Lauren Knowles and Kaleigh Bond received honorable mentions.
Holloway batted .333 with 10 doubles, three home runs, 22 runs batted in and 16 runs scored. In the pitcher’s circle, Holloway posted five wins with a 2.78 earned run average. She also had a .955 fielding percentage.
Harkey had a .352 batting average to go with seven doubles, a homer, 15 RBIs and a .973 OPS. She had a .990 fielding percentage and threw out 29 percent of opposing base runners when catching.
Johnson finished with a .344 batting average. She had a triple, six RBIs and nine runs scored. As a pitcher, Johnson had 11 wins while notching 127 strikeouts and posting a 2.13 ERA.
Branch batted .292 with 12 stolen bases – tied for the program record – four homers, 18 RBIs and 27 runs scored.
Bassett hit .303 with 11 doubles and 17 RBIs. She also led the Lady Titans with 30 runs scored and 15 stolen bases.
Knowles had a .254 batting average with six doubles, 10 RBIs, 14 runs and 12 walks. She also had two outfield assists.
Bond had 15 hits, two of which were doubles, with six RBIs, 14 runs and 10 walks. She had a .962 fielding percentage and helped turn three double plays.
“We just had a lot of good team players,” Dooley said about the depth of this year’s lineup. “We even had some other girls that weren't recognized on all-region who, throughout the playoffs, were big for us in getting rallies started and stuff like that. ... It was somebody different every game, so that's why I think it's great to have so many girls recognized because it wasn't just somebody that carried us the entire year.”
The season featured an early rough stretch where the Lady Titans were held to five runs or fewer in 10 different games by Sept. 21.
Dooley said hard work during the season helped his team turn things around, reach the playoffs and have multiple players qualify for all-region awards.
“We did not start the year hitting very well as a team,” Dooley said. “We had a couple of girls that hit pretty good but, throughout the year, we just got better overall. Offense is, a lot of times, what everybody looks at with those awards so I was very pleased, very happy, and proud of them for getting the recognition.”
With the season in the rearview mirror, Dooley is now meeting with his players on an individual basis to discuss personal and team goals moving forward.
For most players, Dooley said, there will be an emphasis on building up their strength through weight training. That approach already paid off for two of this year’s all-region honorees. Dooley wants to see that spread throughout his team.
“Caroline Branch tied the school record for doubles in a season this year with 12,” Dooley said. “She also hit four home runs. She works really hard in the weight room and she continues to get stronger. Those four home runs can turn into more. Same thing with Casey Holloway. She had two big home runs for us in the playoffs and she's getting stronger. That's really the biggest thing that all of them can work on is just getting faster and stronger.”