The Diamond Knights now face the challenge of continuing that postseason run in a higher classification as they begin their first season in AA.
Pace moves up with Class A rival Holy Innocents’ to join a Region 6AA that includes fellow Buckhead school Lovett.
“First of all, we know all those schools,” Pace coach Kris Palmerton said. “We’ve played them over the past few years and have a tremendous amount of respect for their programs and their coaches. They do a great job. It raises the bar higher for us, which is a good thing. Fortunately, or unfortunately, there are only five teams in the region. So one of us is not going to go to the state playoffs. [Class] AA competition is very sound, so we’re very excited about the challenge.”
Pace got its inaugural season as a AA team off to a 3-0 start, defeating Class A Walker 25-6 in its season opener Aug. 8 and then sweeping AAAAAA squad Campbell in a double header 9-1 and 16-1 Aug. 12.
It will be a mixture of veterans and younger players who will take the field for Pace, which went 22-11 and lost in the first round of the Class A private school playoffs last year.
The Diamond Knights have five returning starters, with four newcomers to the starting lineup.
“It’s kind of a strange year,” Palmerton said. “I’ve got eight new girls in the program as freshmen, but yet a very strong senior class. I’ve got a really good mix of veterans and younger kids and I’m pleased. They’ve made good adjustments at the plate thus far. The competition is going to be a lot better as we go. But I’m pleased with where we are right now.”
The Diamond Knights will be led by their senior core of shortstop Lauren Hadley, Nora Harlin and first baseman/pitcher Maryellen Malone.
“These three we’ll lean on heavily,” Palmerton said. “It’s good to have them.”
Sophomore Laura Shelton is the No. 1 pitcher and will be joined by Malone on the Pace pitching staff. Junior third baseman Lauren Pickman is also among the key players.