West End readies for regional tournament

West End catcher Joni Goss (right) talks with pitcher Morgan Cleveland and head coach Ricky Watkins earlier this season. Photo by Shellie Elrod.West End catcher Joni Goss (right) talks with pitcher Morgan Cleveland and head coach Ricky Watkins earlier this season. Photo by Shellie Elrod.

By Joshua Price/Sports Editor

West End High School’s varsity girls softball team travels to Huntsville this weekend to compete in the Class 2A North Regional Tournament at the Metro Softball Complex.

The seventh-ranked Lady Patriots face Westminister Christian High School in first-round action.

The North Regional tournament consists of some of the top softball teams in Class 2A.

Along with West End, top-ranked Hatton, third-ranked Ider, ninth-ranked Sand Rock, tenth-ranked Lexington, Fyffe and Falkville will compete for a spot in the state tournament in Montgomery next weekend. The top two teams from the tournament will earn a bid in Montgomery.

West End (23-10) finished second to Sand Rock in the Class 2A, Area 13 softball tournament last weekend.

West End is a consistent offensive team, averaging over 10 runs per outing. Top hitters in the potent Pats’ lineup include seniors Brooke Copeland, Joni Goss and Haley Fulenwider and sophomores Courtney Oliver and Morgan Cleveland.

“Our offense is definitely one of our strong points,” West End head coach Ricky Watkins said. “Seven out of the nine hitters in our lineup are batting over .500. When [a team] hits the ball consistently throughout the lineup, [that team] will score runs and wins games.”

West End wins many of its games by large margins, which is mostly due to the stingy defense and the fastball of power-pitcher Cleveland, who is 18-8 on the season.

“Morgan pitches nearly every game for us,” Watkins said. “She has a great fastball and off-speed pitch, which gives her lots of strikeouts.”

When Cleveland is not on the mound, Oliver gets the nod. Oliver also serves as a relief pitcher.

“Courtney is a consistent pitcher for us, too,” said Watkins. “She pitched a great game against Sand Rock in the area championship, we just couldn’t hold the lead for her.”

Goss is the Patriots’ full-time catcher. She said Oliver is a great compliment to Cleveland on the mound.

“Courtney really steps up and does a great job when she is needed. The speed and movement differentiation in Morgan’s pitches and Courtney’s pitches keeps the batters guessing and on their toes. That’s why she’s such a great back up, and starter when needed.”

Watkins said West End and Westminister Christian are similar in many ways, most notably in pitching.

“They have an excellent pitcher that throws really hard.  With our difficult schedule, we have seen some good pitchers this year so far. I hope that gets us ready for Westminister and the tournament.”

Goss said the key to winning is execution on both offense and defense.

“Looking at the bracket, I feel pretty confident. Our main goal is to be error free. As long as we cut down on errors and keep a short memory when we mess up, we will be fine. We need to focus on putting the ball in play and playing solid defense. I feel like we are well prepared for all situations. If my team shows up to play, I really like our chances.”

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