Less than two weeks before the SIAC softball tournament, coach Robert Skinner feels his Albany State Lady Rams are hitting their stride.
Having won 11 of their past 12 games, Albany State will try to improve to 15-1 in the conference with today's doubleheader at Benedict, starting at 2 p.m. The conference tournament is April 22-24 in Columbus.
"We have a chance to win eight more games," said Skinner, whose team is 28-21 overall. "That's not bad. I can live with that for now."
The Lady Rams have their deepest pitching rotation in program history with seniors Sasha Reece, Melissa Hurst and Ashia Merideth.
"The pitching, overall, has been superb," Skinner said. "We have gotten good games by all three. When you get good run support and good pitching, you can win."
Senior leadership is another reason for Albany State's success. Allyssa Spellman (right field), Keandrea Keagler (first base), Deanna Birdsong (second base) and T'Shelya Bynum (shortstop) also are playing their final year.
To illustrate the chemistry of these seniors, only Reece is a junior-college transfer.
"We have talented underclassmen as well, but it's hard for them to get on the field with all the seniors," Skinner said. "Overall, I like our chances since we went 5-1 in the conference crossover earlier this season and we have done good overall in the conference (ASU's only loss is against Clark Atlanta)."
PEACH BELT PREPARATIONS: The Georgia Southwestern golf team is at Callaway Gardens, where the Hurricanes will play in the Peach Belt Conference tourney today and Tuesday.
The event, featuring 36 holes today and 18 Tuesday, is one GSW coach Stan Shurling hopes will bring a turn of events as far as scoring is concerned.
"We haven't been able to get four good scores together at the same time," Shurling said. "We would have players shoot in the 60s; but after each time they do that, we would wind up having to count a 76 or 77 or something. In this conference, you can't do that."
Considering the conference has national powers such as Augusta State and Armstrong Atlantic State, the Hurricanes cannot give up birdie chances when they are there.
Former Lee County golfer Nate Gahman will play at the No. 3 position for GSW. Craig Gibson is GSW's top seed, followed by Christopher Hall at second, J.P. Griffin at fourth followed by Reese Moseley at fifth.
"Obviously, Craig is going to have to have a good tournament," Shurling said.
"He's one of the conference's top five or six golfers and he can actually win the individual title. We just need to get good scores from everybody else."
LOOKING AHEAD: The Georgia Southwestern softball team did not qualify for the conference tournament, but Lady Hurricanes coach Eddie Ward received some good news -- ex-Lee County star Nichole Griffin received a sixth-year medical redshirt waiver.
After she missed this season due to injury, Ward is already excited about having her on next season's team.
"We missed her hitting and power, but most of all, we missed her leadership," Ward said of Griffin, who began her collegiate career at Georgia State.
GSW finished the season, 20-31 overall and 5-15 in the conference, which is an improvement from last year's 13-37 overall mark. Ward, however, doesn't see it that way.
"It's tough to say, but I'm extremely disappointed because we improved in every category," Ward said. "Our team ERA actually dropped by almost 1.5. We had a lot of expectations this year, and our goal was 30 wins. We'll just keep looking ahead to next year."