The Thomson High Lady Bulldogs finished eighth in the final Georgia High School Association rankings in Class AAA softball.
And Thomson head coach Jason Osborn couldn't be more proud of his team.
"I'm so proud of these girls for all their hard work this season and how far they went in the state playoffs," Osborn said during an interview with The McDuffie Mirror last Friday. "It was an honor to have gotten to Columbus."
Georgia's largest city was the site of this year's quarterfinals of the girls' softball state playoffs -- Thomson lost both of their games during that round. The Lady Bulldogs bowed to Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe 2-0 in the first game. The next day, they were eliminated by West Laurens 5-2.
The Lady Bulldogs finished the season with an impressive overall record of 25-7-1 and as runners-up in Region 3-AAA behind West Laurens's Lady Raiders.
"Even though we lost both games in the quarterfinals, I still was very proud of this team, because I know what they did to get as far as they did," Osborn said. "I'm tickled to death with this program. It was a very proud moment for me to see this team get that far in the state playoffs."
Osborn hopes his team can build on the state playoff experience for next season.
"They know a little something about what it's like to be in the state playoffs and they are hungry to return next year," he said. "At least I hope they are. I know I'm hungry to return. I just happen to be the type of person who is never satisfied with anything we do as a team. I want us to do even better."
He praised the team's four seniors for their skills on the field and their leadership. They are: center fielder Heather Shivers; first baseman Chelsea Reeves; right fielder Natasha Seals; and catcher Hannah Pereda.
"They've meant so much to this program," said Osborn, who met with his players and told them again how proud he was of them and their accomplishments.
He talked individually with the seniors. "They've been like my little coaches on the field."
He spoke with the newspaper regarding his players, starting with the seniors.
"I've never coached a girl that has come as far as Heather Shivers has come since was a freshman," the coach said. "She became an outstanding player and a person with a lot of character."
Chelsea Reeves, he said, got knocked down so much and always got back up. Even when she was injured a few times, she did whatever she could do to support the team.
At one point in the season, she broke a finger but found a way to play anyway.
"She was a very unselfish, hard-nosed player," Osborn said. "She always put the team before herself. I admired her very much because she played the way she did."
Natasha Seals did a fine job, too, for the team this season.
"I thank the good Lord that I didn't give up on Natasha and she didn't give up on me as a coach," he said. "I'm so glad that I got to see her grow so much as a player and as a person."
Osborn said Hannah Pereda, meanwhile, was one of the most mature teenagers he's ever coached.
"She was very strong-willed as a player," he said. "She has a great head on her shoulders -- always striving to do more. Hannah did what made this team better."
Several other players also were singled out for their outstanding contributions.
Brooke Herkel, the star sophomore second baseman who pitched well this season, "creates a lot of excitement for our program in the future," said Osborn. "I'm very excited about having her on this team two more years. There's no telling what type of player she will become before she leaves Thomson High School."
Freshman third baseman Jada Lawson is another player that Osborn is high on for the future.
"I am as excited as can be to know she's going to be around three more years," he said. "She's an outstanding athlete and is only going to get much better."
Lawson played third base "very well," considering it was her freshman season. "She also got a number of big base hits and helped us beat Richmond Hill single-handedly to help the team get runners-up in the region."
Caitlin Carpenter, the team's reserve first baseman, played in several games this season and came through with several clutch hits.
"She showed a lot of flashes with the bat this season," said Osborn, noting that after she broke an ankle she never got back to full speed. "I'm hoping she will bounce back strong."
Shannon Chalker, the junior left fielder, "was a big defensive standout for our team this season," he said. "Her arm was much stronger this season than last year. She really tracks down balls well. I'm looking forward to having her back again next season."
Haley Poss, the team's freshman reserve catcher, also made a big contribution to the team. Poss finished the season with 14 hits, including two doubles, and drove in nine runs.
"Haley had a number of clutch hits for us," Osborn said. "Haley could become the sleeper for our team the next three years -- one of the team's better hitters."
Thomson also will be blessed to have Hannah Wilson returning for her senior season. The junior shortstop raised her batting average more than 150 points over what she finished her sophomore season. She also hit eight homeruns, 10 doubles and six triples.
"She's definitely a major college prospect," Osborn said. "A lot of colleges already are interested in her playing for them. "It's going to be great to have her back for another season."
Other players expected to return and contribute significantly to the team next season include: Sharlette Farmer, Miranda Barker, Kristan Marsh, Molly Dwyer, Brianna Poss and Brea Boutwell -- some are expected to become starters.
Another player returning next year is star sophomore pitcher Maegan Bentley.
"She'll be a junior and we're expecting even better things from her next season," Osborn said. "She came up with a lot of big wins for us this season."
The Thomson head coach said he was remiss if he didn't mention the fine job that his assistant coaches, Bennie Hester and Katie Sutherland, had done this season.
"They both did a super job and I sincerely appreciate their hard work to make this team be the best they could be," said Osborn.