By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Messenger file photo by Gary Wells
After losing by one run in Game 2 of the at the Class 4A East Central Regionals last weekend in Montgomery, the Etowah High softball team won three straight playback bracket games to finish as tournament runner-up.
The Lady Blue Devils (32-9) open this week’s state tournament on Tuesday, May 18 at 9 a.m. against Alabama Christian Academy at Choccolocco Park in Oxford. The double elimination tournament continues into Thursday.
“I’m so proud of our girls,” said Etowah head softball coach Kim Jones. “They’ve worked really hard all year and just keep trudging right along. They stay calm, and that’s helped out. Our mentality is that we’re not done and we’re going to keep this thing going.”
Following a 15-1 opening victory in five innings over Good Hope, Etowah suffered a 2-1 setback to eventual region champion Cleburne County. Dropped to the playback bracket, the Lady Blue Devils defeated Munford, 9-4; Cherokee County, 5-1; and Curry, 3-2.
“I was talking to the coaches after the Curry game, and we agreed that every player on the team had a key play, either in the field or at the plate. At some point, everybody did something that contributed to us winning that ballgame.”
Sophomore pitcher Sydney Simpson was sharp in picking up all four of the team’s wins. In 24 innings, she scattered 15 hits while allowing only three earned runs and 12 walks. She struck out 49. She helped her causes with three hits and six RBI.
“Sydney reached down deep the whole tournament,” said Jones. “To have to [pitch] back to back to back was something for her. For Kacie Byrd to come in and pitch the [final three innings] against Good Hope was huge in that it allowed Sydney a little bit of rest.”
Abbi Martin (pictured above) had a big tournament at the plate for Etowah, going 11-for-16 with four doubles, eight RBI and seven runs scored.
“Abbi showed out, defensively and offensively,” said Jones. “She had a really great tournament.”
Also for the tournament for Etowah, Jaleigh Devine had seven hits, four RBI and a run scored; Lauren Farmer and Anna Jones each had four hits, three RBI and three runs scored; Kacie Byrd had four hits, three RBI and two runs scored; Hally Bennett had four hits and five runs scored; Kalena Beshears had four hits, two RBI and two run scored; and Elli Jones had two hits and three RBI.
Jones appreciated that her four-member senior class of Byrd, Bennett, Beshears and McKinley Fuller have the opportunity to compete for a state title before graduating. Fuller has not played this season due to a knee injury.
“They’re setting a precedent for these younger girls that are looking at them as leaders. We talked before this season about needed some leaders to step up and do the little things, and these girls filled that role.”