Seniors Jessica Gilbert, Taylor Morris and Hannah Easterwood have been a key part of what Troup High’s softball program has done over the years, and those three will play their final regular-season game today against the Shaw Lady Raiders in Columbus.
Then, it’ll be time for the Region 5-AAAA tournament where the seniors will try to lead the team into the state tournament.
All three players will exit the stage having accomplished a great deal, and they’ve all had a great time playing softball at Troup.
Gilbert, who plays shortstop and has been a four-year starter, said “it’s been a really fun time.”
“I enjoy coming out here, practicing with these girls, playing my position and doing what I can to help the team,” she added. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Gilbert, who will likely have the opportunity to either play softball or basketball in college, said she has some bittersweet emotions as time winds down.
“This is it,” Gilbert said of the last game. “It’s also a happy time and we’re moving on and it’s good to move on and do other things.”
After softball season ends, Gilbert will begin to sharpen her skills in the gym as she will join the Lady Tigers’ basketball team.
She was a starter last season and is expected to assume that role again.
Morris was looking forward to her senior season in the circle as the team’s ace hurler, but was sidetracked early when she broke her pitching hand.
It happened in August in a tournament at Shuford Fields.
“The first tournament of the season I broke my hand batting,” Morris explained. “I was really freaked out at the time, because I thought the doctor told me at the most, three weeks. I was determined to be at most two. It was two weeks later and he (the doctor) told me I could pitch. It feels great. It feels great to be back.”
Morris showed she was back at full strength when she threw a complete game in a 3-2 loss to LaGrange last week.
Morris, a starting pitcher since her sophomore season, said softball has been a huge part of her life.
“It has meant everything to me. I had so much fun. This team is my family,” Morris said.
Easterwood, who has spent much of her time at Troup as the starting catcher, echoed Morris’ thoughts.
“It’s been really amazing,” Easterwood said. “When I look back, I think of a lot of the memories I’ve had. It’s going to be hard not playing with them (her teammates) anymore, but we’re going to make the best of the rest of the season. This has been the best year. It has been the most fun.”
Blair Shimandle, who is in her second season as Troup’s head coach, praised the efforts of the three seniors.
“Oh gosh, I’m so proud of them. I’m very proud of this senior class,” Shimandle said. “They’ve worked very hard the last few years.”
Shimandle said the maturity level the three girls have demonstrated this season has made her job easier as a coach and mentor.
“They’ve pushed through up-and-down seasons,” she said. “They’ve stepped in as great leaders. I can’t be happier to have them as seniors.”
Also, Shimandle points to the fact the three have had leadership roles in the important positions of pitcher, catcher and shortstop.
“The fact that you have that kind of leadership in the core positions, it really feeds off the rest of the team,” she said. “It’s definitely very positive. They’re always encouraging the underclassman.”