The program has been on the rise ever since.
Although the 2007 team failed to reach its goal of making the Class AAAAA state finals in Columbus, the 2008 squad overachieved throughout the season and got the Lady Mustangs to the finals for the first time in school history.
The 2009 squad kept the momentum going by winning a game in the state finals for the first time. The program’s surge halted in 2010 following a second round playoff loss, however, a young but experienced club featuring six starters and a first-time varsity pitcher defied the odds and led Kennesaw Mountain to a fourth-place state finish and a school-record 30-win season.
After knocking on the door in the postseason, Kennesaw Mountain has recently made winning in the state finals an almost yearly occurrence, and with seven starters returning, including their top two pitchers, this could be the year the Lady Mustangs’ go all the way and capture their first state crown.
“When we won the region in 2007, we had four girls on that team with Division I scholarships,” said Kennesaw Mountain coach Lisa Chapman, who is entering her 13th year at the helm. “A lot of people felt like that was our best team at the time to make it to Columbus and have a shot at the state championship, but we fell short that year.
“Every team since then has kind of defied the odds, and it’s the same situation this year. Every year I tell the girls that you can be as talented as any team in the state and still fall short. On paper, we should make it back to the state finals and make a deep run when we get there, but you can’t take anything for granted. Being there three of the last four years is nice, but it all needs to come together at the right time to win there.”
Leading the way in the circle will be senior Bekah Farris, who went 22-5 last season in 187 innings. She posted a 1.16 earned-run average and gave up only one home run all season.
“I’m a lot more confident now than I was last year,” she said. “I went from being a J.V. pitcher to a varsity starter so there was a lot more pressure. This year, I’m not as nervous because I’ve been there already. I trust my defense to be there and I know I don’t have to rely on strikeouts all the time.”
Junior Malea Bell and seniors Amanda Hallman and Molly Urhman also return. Bell batted .466 with five home runs, 50 RBIs and 48 runs scored, while Hallman was .418 with four homers, 42 RBIs and 14 stolen bases. Urhman batted .364 as a catcher.
Also returning are seniors Chandler Stooksbury, Morgan Howard and Kimmie Strebe. Sophomore Kathryn Woody played a key role down the stretch as well.
“I think if we play as a team, not be too cocky and work hard, we can make it further than we did last year,” said Hallman, who is entering her fourth year as a starter. “I think our chemistry is the biggest thing. If you don’t have good chemistry, you don’t go as far. We love to play together.”
With so much recent success, it’s not surprising that expectations have risen at Kennesaw Mountain. Competing for region championships and sustaining deep playoff runs have become the norm.
“Our first goal is always to win the region championship,” Chapman said. “Next, is to play for the state championship. We’ve been in the mix each year, and this senior class knows what it takes. This is their last year and final chance at that state title.”
In order to reach those goals, Chapman and the Lady Mustangs will rely on their strengths as much as possible.
“Every team, every season is different,” she said. “What I like about this team is we can go deeper into our lineup than we have in the past with our hitters. I don’t anticipate having a week spot in the lineup as long as we stay healthy so hitting will be a strength. Plus, with Bekah back in the circle after the great season she had last year, we like where we’re positioned.
“Our focus is not looking past anyone and taking it one game at a time. We’re preseason favorites for a lot of people, so everybody is going to give us their best game. We’ll have to be ready.”