080719_MNS_Mount_Vernon_Presbyterian_softball_Bella_Dishman Bella Dishman

Mount Vernon’s Bella Dishman swings at a pitch during a game in 2018.

The start of August has brought about the beginning of the prep softball season for local programs.

Wesleyan won its second consecutive Class A Private state championship with a 26-win campaign in 2018. The Wolves return several all-state candidates including senior pitcher and University of Georgia commitment Madison Kerpics, who won 20 games with an earned run average of 0.68 while striking out 283 batters in the circle. Senior outfielder Jahni Kerr, who has committed to Florida State University, led the team in hits (53), runs scored (48), stolen bases (35) and walks (14) last season. Other top performers back for Wesleyan will be junior Reece Holbrook, who had a team-high 27 RBIs last year, senior Emma-Kate Means and junior Gracie Taylor.

“We are getting started in earnest, which I’m very excited about,” Wolves coach Mary Stephenson said. “We have several girls who have had great travel ball seasons over the summer. Each season is its own journey, but I think our team chemistry and commitment were exceptional last season. We will look to replicate those things in our team this season. We have a strong senior class who will provide great leadership, and we also finally have an upperclassman heavy team. I’m hopeful that experience will benefit us throughout the season.”

Wesleyan opens the season at Chamblee Aug. 6.

“The leadership of our senior class will be crucial for us to achieve our potential,” Stephenson said. “We need to be consistent offensively and sharp defensively to back up our strong pitching staff. We believe that little things make big things happen, so we will be focused on excelling in small areas in order to achieve team success.”

Pace was also in the Class A Private state playoffs last season and won 13 contests.

“In addition to attending preseason workouts for Pace, the majority of our girls have been committed to softball by playing travel ball all summer,” Knights coach Jewell Marable said. “Our preseason workouts focused on defensive and offensive reps, positional development, mechanics/fundamental aspects of the game and determining roles. We are always working toward being a defensively sound team by improving our fielding percentage and minimizing errors, as well as increasing defensive pressure at the plate with confidence and conviction.”

Senior Caroline Landis and junior Sydney Silverstein will be the main pitchers for Pace.

“Both players had hefty travel ball schedules this summer and will bring their pitching experiences in sequencing their pitches and setting up batters to bring dominance to any matchup,” Marable said. “They will definitely add defensive pressure at the plate and play first base.”

Junior utility player Jaime Kornheiser will will play multiple positions including being the primary catcher.

“Senior Molly Buffenbarger will serve as a leader for Pace softball,” Marable said. “She will consistently provide a stable and steady presence on the field and at the plate for the team. All are dual threats, offensively and defensively. With their leadership on the team, Pace will be the top region contender.”

Pace hosts Norcross in its season opener Aug. 7.

“This year, we have a solid team with depth and individual talent,” Marable said. “We all know that individuals don’t win in softball. A culture of teamwork, work ethic, trust and dedication to our team and our goals are key factors. Our strong attitudes, chemistry and compatibility off the field must positively translate on the field. We must work hard as individuals for our team, inspire one another, play for one another, and have each other’s back.”

Mount Vernon qualified for the Class A Private playoffs last season.

“The biggest takeaway from the 2018 season is that we are a team with a lot of talent and are capable of playing very good ball,” Mustangs coach Michael Edmonson said. “Last year we were a very young team and had our share of rookie mistakes and injuries that limited our success. This season, we should play with more confidence, knowing what we are capable of and knowing that we have done it before.”

Top returners include sophomore Bella Dishman, who led the team in multiple offensive categories such as batting average (.427), hits (32) and RBIs (20) in 2018. Sophomore Savannah Messner led Mount Vernon in slugging (.680) and on-base percentage (.470) last year. Senior Carson Watson and sophomore Kendall Slayden will also be threats on offense. Junior Sarah Schab and Slayden will be the team’s pitching staff.

“Having two healthy pitchers with contrasting styles to share the work load will be an incredible boost to the team,” Edmonson said.

Mount Vernon hosts North Cobb Christian in its season opener Aug. 6.

“We must come together as a team for a shared goal,” Edmonson said. “Integrate a talented group of freshmen, so that they are comfortable contributing at the high school level. We must play with confidence, knowing what we are capable of and playing without fear. We must stay healthy the entire season.”

Other season openers include Riverwood visiting Westlake Aug. 7, Galloway hosting Duluth Aug. 8, North Springs facing Callaway Aug. 9, Holy Innocents’ hosting Chamblee Aug. 9, Lovett hosting Thomas County Central Aug. 10 and North Atlanta hosting Alpharetta Aug. 13.

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