Story By: Griffin Pritchard | Publisher
Photos by: CASCORESquad Community & Brian Tannehill | Director of Photography
CENTRAL ALABAMA SCOREBOARD OFFICE – High School softball will take centerstage over the weekend as Wetumpka High hosts their annual multi-team affair. Organizing an event like this isn’t easy as there are a lot of moving parts and this year was even tougher working within the parameters of both Pandemic Protocols and school-systems adherence to the Governor’s Safer at Home Order.
“This year has taken a lot of extra preparations,” said Indians coach Daryl Otwell. “It takes a lot more volunteers to make sure stuff is cleaned.”
Sanitization and Social Distancing are now common practice in all social gatherings and this weekend will be no different. The key difference though, was determining who would actually make the trek to fill out the bracket.
Originally, the tournament was slated to host 30-plus teams, but due to a prohibition on some schools staying overnight, that number reduced to 27 which still is going to create opportunities for exciting and new match-ups. Then further considerations had to be made as Prattville Christian and Montgomery Catholic have basketball teams playing for the 3A State Championship Friday morning back-to-back at 9 and 11:30.
Needless to say, building this bracket has given Otwell and his staff a few more grey hairs.
The tournament kicks off Friday afternoon at the Wetumpka Sports Complex (located along the Coosa River Parkway) with games starting at 1:30 and continuing at 3:30, 5:30 and the last round starts at 7:30.
This year’s tournament features 27 teams divided into seven pools: Pools A-E will play on the five softball fields at the Complex; Pool F will play on Baseball Field No. 2 (also at the complex) and Pool G will be over the Wetumpka High Softball Field.
The 5:30 and 7:30 games will determine seeding for bracket play which starts Saturday morning at 9 and will be played on the five main softball complex fields.
There are multiple storylines to follow coming into the tournament. The main thread for most of the teams competing is just that .. the opportunity to compete and improve as they continue to build and shake off the rust from not having played in more than a year.
“I’d like to see us hit the ball better as an entire team,” said Whitney Toole, coach of the Montgomery Catholic Knights. “We are also looking to see the top of our line up consistently get on base. We’ve been stressing to them that they have to start setting the tone early.”
Chilton County is going to be without a pair of key Tigers, one to Covid the other to a knee injury.
“We, once again, are going to be needing our younger kids to carry the load,” said Johnny Giles, coach of the Chilton County Tigers.
And then there’s St. James – this weekend will the first that the Trojans are at full strength.
“We are looking to our five seniors to lead us,” said Mark Hall, coach of the Trojans. “Most of them have played softball here since seventh grade. They have a ton of experience and we are counting on them to perform. If they play well this weekend, I believe we will have success.”
Enough with the logistics – who’s going to be playing in this thing?
Below are the pools:
Pool A (Complex Field 1): Wetumpka High / Foley / LAMP / Russellville
Otwell: “I expect (the Indians) to show up and compete every pitch and make a run at the whole thing.”
Pool B (Complex Field 2): Montgomery Catholic (4-2-1) / Hayden / Holtville / Rehobeth
Toole: “I want to see the girls come out and play good, competitive ball this weekend. The past few games we’ve struggled putting runs on the board until the last few innings. We’ve stressed coming out ready to play from the start of the game.”
Pool C (Complex Field 3): Southside-Gadsden / Benjamin Russell / Prattville / Brew Tech
“We are looking forward to playing some great competition,” said Brew Tech Coach Brian Pittman, “and building on the success we’ve had so far this year.”
Pool D (Complex Field 4): Tallassee / Saraland / Stanhope Elmore / Springville
“We are a young team looking to improve every game,” said Virginia Barber, coach of the 4-5 Stanhope Elmore Mustangs. “This weekend I’m looking to get as many quality repos as possible for my team. The tournament is full of great teams and we will obviously compete, but our goal is to improve and get good reps in.”
Pool E (Complex Field 5): Elmore Co. / Spanish Fort / Prattville Christian / Alabama Christian
“Of course we’d like to win the tournament, but the main focus this early in the season is to clean up some of the costly mental errors and continue to split up innings with all our pitchers so they are all prepared later in the year when it counts,” said Mark Segrest, coach of the 10-1 Elmore County Panthers.
Pool F (Baseball Field 2) Marbury / Lawrence County / Jefferson Davis – Montgomery / St. James
Hall: “I’m looking forward to this weekend to see how we compete against some very good competition. Without any pre-season work, this will give us an idea of how far we have come over the last 10 days. The bar has been set very high here and it will be interesting to see how quickly we can get to a high level of play. If we plan on winning any games this weekend, we will need to get there quick.”
Pool G (Wetumpka High School Field) Chilton County / Hazel Green / Horseshoe Bend
Giles: “We just want to keep improving. This season is a marathon and not a sprint and we need to keep battling and improving and overcoming these adversities we are faced with to get stronger for later in the season when it truly matters. We need Emma Deason, Macey Pierce, Tyeshia Williams and EK Lock to continue to carry the load for us.”
Across the board (except for Pool G) the losers of the 1:30 and 3:30 games Friday afternoon will meet at 5:30 that evening. The winners will meet at 7:30 to determine seeding for the tournament. Pool G, by virtue of having only three teams – will play a Round Robin fort with Horseshoe / Chilton first (1:30), Horseshoe / Hazel Green (3:30) and Hazel Green / Chilton (5:30).
Be sure to check www.CentralAlabamaScoreboard.com and the Central Alabama Scoreboard Facebook page throughout the day on Friday and Saturday as photographers will be roaming from field to field snapping photos and posting them. The goal is to create galleries for each field leading up to the championship Saturday night. Complete coverage of the top teams will follow on Monday.
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