MOULTRIE -- The Colquitt County High softball team held its banquet on Tuesday giving outgoing coach Keith Croft one more chance to say how much he has enjoyed coaching the last 12 years.

He also took the banquet as an opportunity and to urge the players to continue to improve in fast-pitch, the game he helped bring to Colquitt County last year.

The banquet was the first under a new format this year. Each sport will have its own banquet, rather than the tradition winter and spring banquets.

For Croft, it also was his last as the Lady Packers softball coach. After 12 seasons, including the last two when his teams played fast-pitch, he announced his resignation after the season.

He finished with a career record of 192-118, going 176-88 in slow-pitch and 16-30 in fast-pitch.

The Lady Packers were 6-15 and won just one of 10 Region 1-AAAAA games this season. Six of the region losses came by a total of eight runs.

Croft said he saw improvement this year.

"It was a tough year for us," he said. "We had some close, close losses. We hated to lose, but we showed some maturity. We were in just about every game.

"We've got something to build on. Instead of taking baby steps, next year we'll start walking."

Croft introduced his assistant coach Angie Davis and B-team coach Amanda Horne. Middle school coach Marlon Daniels could not attend.

B-team members who attended the banquet were Nakeisha King, Nicole Troupe, Tori Bozeman, Sam Burnette, Loryn Brinson, Amy Campbell, Megan Elkins, Erica Grantham, Charlie Hartsfield, Misty Hartsfield, Jessica Sealy, Ashley Stafford, Cyndi Young and Morgan Jones.

The varsity players included seniors Jodi Beth Hammock and twins April Harrison and Ashley Harrison.

Ashley Harrison led the team in hitting with a .375 average, in runs batted in with 18 and in hits with 24.

"She filled a big spot for us," Croft said of his two-year starting catcher. "This year, she did an awesome job.

"We had minimal passed balls this season."

April Harrison,the team's third baseman, was the second-leading hitter with a .344 average. She was second on the team behind her sister in hits with 22 and runs batted in with 14.

Hammock, who played left field and first base, batted .227 and drove in nine runs.

"I'm really proud of these three seniors," Croft said. "Especially for last year, when we were starting. And for this year for their leadership.

"I wish we could have had more wins for you," he told them. "But we appreciate what you've done."

The others were Lynn Hart, Renee Huckaby, Katy Lewis, Kelli Oliver, Nikki Kistler, Kelli Wallace, Joni Connell, Jenna Milligan and Ashley O'Grady.

Oliver and Wallace did most of the pitching this season.

"I am proud of you pitchers," Croft said. "Where would we have been without our pitchers?

"The worked hard without a lot of tutelage and we faced people who had been doing this a lot longer than we have. But we really cut down a lot on our walks this year."

Croft asked the players to prepare themselves for next season.

"I want to encourage you to work in the off-season," he said. "Prepare yourself. Practice. Play this summer.

"You've got another year of maturity and you'll get stronger."

The team presented Croft with a certificate noting that a brick paver will be placed in the downtown sidewalk commemorating his work with the team.

"I've never worried about my daughter (while she was playing)," Jodi Beth Hammock's mother Janet told Croft. "I appreciate you and know the other parents do too."

Croft will stay on as an assistant with the Colquitt County High baseball team and said he will remain the softball team's top fan.

"These last 12 years have been a joy," he said. "I've enjoyed every moment with the young ladies of Colquitt County.

"And I'll still be a part of the program."



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