Photo: Etowah catcher Hally Bennett (left) tags out North Jackson’s Chloe Chisenall during the Lady Blue Devils’ 10-3 loss in the Class 4A state softball state tournament semifinals on May 20 at Choccolocco Park in Oxford. (Jason Bowen/Jackson County Sentinel)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
The Etowah High softball team finished the 2021 season one game shy of competing for a state championship.
At the Class 4A state tournament this past week in Oxford, the Lady Blue Devils lost to North Jackson, 10-3, in the playback bracket finals, ending Etowah’ season at 35-11. The Lady Chiefs went on to defeat top-ranked Rogers twice to win the state title.
The Lady Blue Devils opened the tournament on May 19 with a 3-0 shutout of Alabama Christian. An 8-3 loss to North Jackson dropped Etowah to the playback bracket, but the Attalla squad kept its season alive with a 14-4 victory over Cleburne County and a 7-0 shutout over Alabama Christian. The pair of wins sent Etowah to the semifinal round, where the Lady Blue Devils fell to North Jackson to place third in the state.
“I’m very proud of our girls,” said Etowah head coach Kim Jones. “They brought in from Day 1 and never gave up. (After the second-round loss to North Jackson), they could have laid down, and they didn’t. They showed a lot of grit and a lot of heart. Our seniors (Kacie Byrd, Hally Bennett, Kalena Beshears and McKinley Fuller) set a precedent and paved the way for our younger girls coming up. Their leadership form the beginning was outstanding. They said, ‘We’re going to lead, and all we need the other girls to do is follow,’ and that’s what happened. I hate it that we couldn’t bring it home for our seniors, because they really showed out.”
Sophomore pitcher Sydney Simpson logged 29.1 innings during the tournament, allowing 21 hits, 10 earned runs and 10 walks while striking out 44.
“Sydney stepped up and battled the whole way,” said Jones. “Being exhausted, she still finished strong. She looked good.”
At the plate, Hally Bennet finished with seven hits, three RBI and seven runs; Lauren Farmer had six hits, five runs and one RBI; Abbi Martin had four hits (including three triples), five runs and four RBI; Anna Jones had five hits, three runs and two RBI; Kacie Byrd had four hits (including a home run), six runs and four RBI; Simpson had five hits and two RBI; Kalena Beshears had three hits, three RBI and three runs; Elli Jones had three hits, three RBI and two runs; Jaleigh Devine had two hits, three runs and two RBI; and Lauren Wood scored four runs.
Against Alabama Christian in the first round, Simpson struck out 14 in seven innings. Byrd had two hits and two RBI, Martin had two hits and Anna Jones had a hit and an RBI.
Beshears had two hits against North Jackson in the second round.
Against Cleburne County, Bennett had four hits and four RBI, Elli Jones had three RBI and Simpson had two hits.
Against Alabama Christian in the quarterfinals, Simpson struck out 15 in seven innings. She helped her cause with a pair of hits. Also at the plate, Bennett had two hits and two RBI, Beshears had two RBI and Anna Jones had two hits.
Simpson had eight strikeouts in 5.1 innings against North Jackson in the semifinals.
Although disappointed in the outcome at state, Jones noted that the future is bright for the program.
“We’ve got several juniors who’ve been playing hard and working hard, along with [sophomore second baseman] Lauren Farmer. We also brought along several younger girls who got a taste of what the playoffs are about, so hopefully they’ll know what to expect next time.”