BROOKLET, Ga. (WSAV) – No matter how many times they make this trip, traveling to the GHSA state softball tournament for the Elite Eight in Columbus will never get old.

“They are very excited and we are excited for the opportunity,” head coach Aimee Civalier said. “Anybody has a shot.”

One of the main reasons the Yellowjackets think they have a shot at a 3A state title is the emergence of star infielder Delanie Thames.

“She’s a game-changer. She brings the intensity every single day, every single practice, and every single game.” Civalier explained. “She’s an offensive threat every time she comes up to bat. Her defense and her knowldge — she’s really a student of the game.”

This isn’t the first time Thames has turned heads because of her talent on the diamond. WSAV first met Thames back in 2018, when she made history as the first girl to try out for and make the Southeast Bulloch Middle School baseball team.

“I’m here showing that I can compete with [the boys] and I’m not just out here playing around,” Thames said in the 2018 interview.

She proved her point, won a region championship with the boys, and helped the high school girls win a region title in 2019. During that 2019 season, Thames’ freshman year, she grabbed all-state honors with a .493 batting average, lead the team with 15 home runs, and racked up 49 RBI’s.

Then, early in her sophomore year, disaster struck.

“After school ball I felt a pain in my shoulder, but I thought it was soreness.”

That “soreness” turned out to be a torn labrum and rotator cuff. Thames’ season was over before it even got started.

“I wanted to be out on the field, but I still knew my team needed me in the dugout and you have to stay positive.”

Facing an unfamiliar situation – sitting on the bench during a game – Delanie turned into “Coach Thames” and put her wealth of softball knowledge to good use.

“She’ve very passionate about the sport and it’s contagious,” Civalier added. “I know it was tough for her, but she grew a lot too sitting on that bench and I think it made her appreciate it a lot more coming back this year.”

Even when she did come back, Thames continued to face bumps in the road. Midway through this season, doctors told her she needed to take a six-week break from throwing with her right hand. As much as she enjoyed coaching her sophomore season, Thames knew her team needed her on the field this time.

“One day I was like, ‘I’m going to see if I can throw left-handed,'” Thames explained with a grin.

Next thing you know, Thames is starting in centerfield as a lefty.

“That’s just Delanie,” Civalier said matter-of-factly. “She’s going to be one hundred percent, one hundred percent of the time.”

These days, Thames has returned to throwing with her dominant right hand. When she needs motivation, however, she reflects back on when times were tough.

“I’m pretty proud of myself for overcoming this injury because I feel like most people wouldn’t be able to sit out nine months, go through six months of physical therapy twice a week and still come out after recovering and be better than when they left.”

Thames and her Southeast Bulloch teammates take on Sonoraville Thursday morning in the GHSA 3A softball Elite Eight.