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Darton softball ready to defend Region XVII title

Darton ace Katy Jordan enters today’s Region XVII tournament with a 24-2 record and a 0.895 ERA.

Darton ace Katy Jordan enters today’s Region XVII tournament with a 24-2 record and a 0.895 ERA.

LOCUST GROVE — Katy Jordan was somewhere in the middle of the pile.

She doesn’t remember exactly where, and she doesn’t recall how the final out was recorded in last year’s Region XVII championship game, which had the Lady Cavs piling on each other in celebration at home plate.

The details are fuzzy — but she will never forget the feeling.

“We were all crying and laughing,” Jordan said. “That was probably the best feeling I have ever felt before, and I want the freshmen to be able to experience that this year.”

Jordan and the Lady Cavs, who are ranked 16th in the nation, open this year’s region tournament at 5 p.m. today against either Waycross or East Georgia — and Jordan has visions of a second straight title.

“In my mind, we better win state,” said Jordan, who is Darton’s ace and one of the top junior college pitchers in the nation. “I am thinking ahead, and I want to get as far as we can in nationals. I think we have a good chance at winning nationals.”

In order to return to nationals, the Lady Cavs will need to emerge from the region tournament for the fourth time in the last five years under coach David Dews. Darton, which rattled off a program-best 30 straight wins this spring, enters the tournament as the top seed after ending the regular season 42-5 overall and 14-4 in the region.

“We have had a really good year, and hopefully we can translate that over to a good tournament,” Dews said.

You don’t have to convince freshman Chelsea Showers that her Lady Cavs had a tremendous regular season — one that she can’t stop telling her friends back home about.

“Most friends I have talked to (complained about their own teams),” Showers said. “I would tell them, ‘You should come here.’ I can’t even describe the feeling at Darton. It’s amazing here.”

Jordan knows how much more amazing it can get. She was also one of the nation’s top pitchers last year — when the Lady Cavs finished fifth at nationals — and her 0.895 ERA and 24-2 record this season have Darton thinking about another celebratory pile this weekend.

Showers, who leads the team with a .474 batting average, would love to leap right into the pile. But first, she says it’s time to get serious.

“Don’t get me wrong, we were serious in the regular season,” Showers said. “But now everything has to be on point — defense, pitching, offense, everything.”

Jordan also knows what it’s going to take.

“Coach (Sam) White had a conversation with us Monday, and he told us to let all the distractions go and start getting focused,” Jordan said. “Now we are really about to take care of business, and we are going to get done what we have worked for.”

The Lady Cavs have put in plenty of work in the regular season.

Freshman pitcher Jenny Willis is the other half of Darton’s 1-2 punch on the mound. She has a 1.477 ERA, a 17-3 record and is one of the faces of the future of Darton softball.

“Both of them are ready to go out there,” Dews said about his two pitchers. “They have been throwing really good bullpens and have been mentally focused in on what they are doing.”

Willis got the brunt of the workload at the end of the regular season, which means Jordan is rested and ready to roll.

“If anything happens I’m sure Jenny will go in, but I want to take it. And I want to take it as far as we can go,” Jordan said.

Jordan and Willis have gotten plenty of help from the Darton bats, which have just about as much pop as Jordan’s fastball.

Seven of the Lady Cavs are hitting above .300, and three of them are hitting above .400: Showers (.474 BA, 35 RBI, 55 R), Kelsea Ogletree (.446 BA, 38 RBI, 31 R) and Jessica Vason (.434 BA, 52 RBI, 37 R). Everyone in the starting lineup has hit at least one home run this season, including Erica Vasquez (9), Ogletree (8), Vason (7) and sophomore Amanda Jaskolski (7).

But it all starts with Showers, who has a team-best .534 on-base percentage and 26 stolen bases in 27 attempts.

“She is one of those that at any moment could be a spark plug for our offense. I feel good about all of them right now,” Dews said. “They are swinging the bats really well, but with (Showers’) speed and power, she can give you instant offense.”

It’s been an incredible three months for the Lady Cavs, so it would be easy to assume they are the overwhelming favorites going into this weekend’s tournament.

Not so fast, Dews said.

“A lot of the these teams don’t consider us the favorite,” said Dews, whose Lady Cavs were the No. 1 seed in last year’s tournament but were still in the shadow of Georgia Perimeter. “They never do.”