Hiller, Tattnall Square enjoying strong start to the season
Tattnall Square softball head coach Joey Hiller has a cool, laid-back demeanor, but it would be hard to blame him for being excited about his team’s fast start this season against some quality opponents.
After all, his team finished third in the state last year. Regardless, Hiller is not interested in talking about state championship runs, especially this early in the season.
One reason, or maybe three reasons, why he’s content to focus on the present is the competitiveness of the region the Trojans must navigate in order to have a chance at a state title run.
“We play in an extremely competitive region. I know last year in the playoffs, three of the final four teams remaining in Columbus were from our region,” Hiller said.
So Hiller understands the importance of scheduling competitive programs early.
“We’re trying to play a lot of good competition before region gets here so that we can be ready,” he said.
That difficult early schedule and a strenuous preseason have helped the young Trojans learn quickly. The roster includes only three seniors, and fortunately for Hiller, they have been leaders.
Allie Gordon has made a smooth transition over to first base this season, and Carley Ingle is starting at third base and catching. They both plan to continue their careers at Belhaven (Mississippi), which finished as the NCAA Division III national championship runner-up in 2016.
The third senior, pitcher Ashleigh Morton, has hit the ground running this season, showing the same form that led the team on a deep, playoff run last season. Hiller believes that Morton is talented enough to pitch in college and spoke about her form so far this season.
“I’d say she picked up right where she left off last year,” he said. “She pitched us to a No. 3 finish in the state last year, and we are seeing a lot more of the same consistency in her this year.”
All three players are captains and lead a bevy of talented sophomores on this roster. You could hear the excitement in Hiller’s voice when he began talking about the class of 2020’s impact on his team.
“We have several (standout sophomores). I don’t know if I could pick just one,” Hiller said. “Every one of them has contributed in a different way.”
Kenna Epps is the No. 2 pitcher and a top hitter. Logan Oller is the starting center fielder and a shortstop, Jaelyn Darley is in her second season as the leadoff hitter. Courtney Ball is playing great at third and behind the plate, and she has improved her offense this season.
Generating offense has not been a problem this season for Tattnall Square (6-2). In the Trojans’ first eight regular-season games before Tuesday’s road game at Eagle’s Landing Christian, they averaged nine runs per game. That includes only four home runs, but Hiller believes the power is coming.
“I think the home runs tend to come in bunches,” Hiller said. “Surprisingly, the players in the middle of our order have not hit for much power this year, but that will come.”
That ability to manufacture runs without the use of the long ball should pay dividends later in the season. That versatility, mixed with a team thirsty for another shot at Columbus, just might be the winning recipe for the Trojans to do something special this season.
“I don’t know if we are a power team or a small ball team,” Hiller said. “I think we can do both. I think we need to be able to do both.”