Softball season gets started through Georgia this weekend as the top teams take the field. The goal is always to reach the Elite Eight held in Columbus each year.
Last season several Savannah-area teams reached the Elite Eight. South Effingham and Effingham County represented the area from Region 2-6A, while Islands made a run to the Class 4A Final Four for the first time in school history.
Bryan County also reached the Elite Eight in Class A Division I.
There's plenty of talent coming back in the Greater Savannah area, and here's a look at the top returning players to watch in 2023.
Bailey Kendziorski, South Effingham, P, sr.
The All-Greater Savannah Player of the Year as a junior, Kendziorski went 13-5 with an ERA of 1.07 and a WHIP of .707. She pitched three no-hitters and hit .318 with a .455 OBP and 18 RBIs with 20 runs scored. Kendziorski helped lead the Mustangs to the Elite Eight and is receiving interest from a number of colleges, including Ivy League schools.
Winners of Coastal Empire Sports Awards Here's who won at the Coastal Empire High School Sports Awards Show
2022 All-Greater Savannah softball team Meet the All-Greater Savannah Softball Team and Coach of the Year for 2022
Whitney Thompson, South Effingham, 3B, sr.
The slick-fielding third baseman hit he hit .430 with a .962 OPS last season with 35 RBIs and 27 runs. She had just two errors and was an All-Greater Savannah first-team selection.
Emma Darrow, South Effingham, 2B, sr.
Darrow was a star at the plate with a .475 batting average, a .568 OBP and a 1.134 OPS. She had seven doubles, a triple, 37 runs and 26 RBIs. She is also a standout defensively and had just three errors in 87 chances as she was an All-Greater Savannah first-team pick.
Kenzie Ergle, South Effingham, SS, jr.
Ergle was another two-way star for the Mustangs in their run to Columbus last season. She hit .355 with an OPS of .892. She had 12 doubles, two triples, a home run, 33 RBIs and 32 runs and the All-Greater Savannah first-team pick is excellent defensively at shortstop.
Olivia Morgan, Effingham County, SS, jr.
Morgan had an excellent glove at shortstop for the Rebels and was also a key offensively as she hit 341 with a .476 OBP and a .927 OPS. She had five doubles, two triples, 36 runs and 17 RBIs and struck out just five times all season for an Effingham squad that reached the Elite Eight.
Jillian Austin, Savannah Christian, OF/P, soph.
Austin had a breakout freshman campaign as she was named the Region 3-3A offensive player of the year. She hit .471 with an OPS of 1.246 with nine doubles, six triples, 25 RBIs and 25 runs scored. In the pitching circle, she went 9-7 with a 3.46 ERA. She was an All-Greater Savannah first-team pick.
Ava Wingate, Effingham County, P, jr.
Wingate was excellent in the pitching circle last year for the Rebels and was an All-Region 2-6A first-team pick for a team that finished 27-7. She went 7-1 with a 2.24 ERA last season.
Jaden Burns, South Effingham, C/INF, sr.
Burns, who has committed to play at Wingate University, was a first-team All-Region 2-6A last season.
Hailey Hill, Islands, Util., sr.
Hill was an All-Region 3-4A first-team pick for the Sharks last year as the squad made a run to the Final Four for the first time in school history. The first baseman hit .316 with 16 RBIs and 16 runs and will take on more of a leadership role this season.
Hannah Jane Gard, Savannah Christian, Inf/P, jr.
Gard was an All-Region 3-3A first-team pick last season as she followed up an impressive freshman year with another excellent performance.
Emma Overby, Calvary Day, P, jr.
Overby was a standout for the Cavaliers last season and was named the Region 3-3A Pitcher/Defensive Player of the Year.
Sarah Messex, South Effingham, 1B/3B, sr.
Messex is a key player and has the versatility to play both corner infield spots for the Mustangs.
Megan Coleman, Effingham County, 2B, jr.
A standout defender in the middle for the Rebels, Coleman also hit .341 with a .476 OBP last season.
Emma Reynolds, Effingham County, 3B, sr.
Reynolds returns as a key leader for the Rebels after driving in 18 runs and hitting three homers last season.
Ansleigh Giordano, Effingham County, P/OF, soph.
Giordano had an impressive freshman season as she compiled an 5-0 record with an ERA of .860 last year.
Skylar Lee, Bryan County, INF, sr.
Lee drove in 21 runs for Bryan County last year and is expected to be a key player in her senior season.
Amber Gray, Bryan County, OF/P, sr.
Gray went 4-2 last season with a 2.10 ERA as the No. 2 pitcher for Bryan County. She also hit .319 with an .891 OPS.
Liz Harvey, Bryan County, SS/C, jr.
Harvey was solid for Bryan County with 27 runs scored for a Bryan County squad that reached the Elite Eight.
Gabby Narvaez, Islands, INF/P, sr.
Narvaez was a second-team All-Region selection for the Sharks last season. The lefty is in her fourth season as a starter at second base and will be a big factor in the pitching circle.
Adeline Zaragoza, Islands, SS, jr.
Zaragoza was a key player in the run to the Final Four and was an All-Region second team pick for the Sharks last year.
Kaylee Jeffcoat, Calvary Day, jr.
Jeffcoat earned Region 3-3A first-team honors last season.
Natalie Sanders, Calvary Day, jr.
Sanders was an All-Region 3-3A first-team selection last year.
Loki Thompson, St. Vincent's, jr.
Thompson was a standout for the Saints last year -- earning All-Region 3-3A first-team honors.
Payton Livingston, Savannah Christian, OF, jr.
Solid all-around player was a second-team All-Region 3-3A pick last year.
Chaynie Cornwell, Savannah Christian, jr.
Cornwell earned second team all-region honors for the Raiders last season.
Amani Stanley, Richmond Hill, SS, sr.
Stanley will anchor the infield for the Wildcats in her senior year.
Adriana Williams, Richmond Hill, P/IF, soph.
Williams is expected to have a big impact with a Richmond Hill squad playing in the tough Region 1-7A.
Aubrey Ragins, Richmond Hill, 3B/SS, fresh.
She's just a freshman, but a breakout season could be on the horizon for Ragins.
Akera Jackson, New Hampstead, sr.
Talented athlete was a second-team All-Region 3-4A pick last season.
Gabrielle Barnum, Jenkins, 1B, soph.
Barnum hit .355 with a pair of homers last season for the Warriors and will anchor the offense this season
Gracin Boty, Jenkins, P, jr.
Coach Seth Gaspin said Boty will be a key in the pitching circle this year for the Warriors.
Dilynn Weaver, Islands, Util., sr.
Weaver's versatility makes her a valuable asset in the Shark lineup.
Dennis Knight covers sports for the Savannah Morning News. Contact him at Dknight@savannahnow.com. Twitter: @DennisKnightSMN
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: The top softball players to watch in Greater Savannah area for 2023