Reigning state champion Sparkman didn’t have an easy day, but the Senators made it through the first day of the Class 6A softball state playoffs at Lagoon Park unscathed.
But today, Sparkman (50-8) faces the daunting task of going against top-ranked Pelham (44-4), a team it fell to 7-0 earlier this season.
“We played probably our worst game,” Sparkman coach Dale Palmer said. “We didn’t have a whole lot of fight. We waddled around out there, and they took it to us. We were No. 1 at the time, and they wanted to prove that they belonged. But when you put two teams on this stage with all the people around and all that’s at stake, we should come out with a little fight because we owe them one.”
The Senators needed extra-inning heroics to earn its 6-5 victory over Dothan in the first game. Senior Meg Wilis hit a single in the bottom of the seventh to bring in fellow senior Janna Korak for the tying run. Junior Bevia Robinson hit a walk-off double to score freshman Kinsey Moore in the bottom of the eighth.
Sparkman scored two runs in the top of the sixth in its 3-1 win over Thompson in Game 2.
“We’ve been on the ropes both games, but we keep fighting,” Palmer said. “It’s good to see seniors step up. (In the first game) you had a senior lead off getting on and a senior with two strikes and two outs hit the ball down the line to score the tying run. (In the second game) we had a senior pitcher finish it up.
“When the chips are down, these kids, they fight. We won two game, which is great, and we haven’t played our best game yet.”
The Panthers had drama in their first two games as well, getting by Hueytown in Game 1 and Austin in Game 2 with 2-1 margins each game.
A roster slated with Division I talent, Pelham missed out on state last season and is looking to make up for lost time this year.
Several juniors have already committed — Becky Fox to UAB, Kristian Foster to South Alabama, Emily Spain to Auburn and Caitlyn Sapp to Jacksonville State — and senior Whitney Gillespie has signed with Jacksonville State.
“Their motto was ‘Unfinished business,'” Pelham coach Amy Sullivan said. “I’ve got five juniors, and as tough as it was, maybe it was a good learning experience for them to realize you’ve got to bring your A game every time or somebody’s going to beat you.”
Because of last season’s heartbreak, Sullivan said this year’s team takes nothing for granted.
“We played (Sparkman) three or four weeks ago and played well,” Sullivan said. “But for our kids, it doesn’t matter that we played them already, because all that’s null and void at this point. If you ask them our record, for us it’s 0-0. We celebrate right after the win, and now our record is 0-0, and our opponent is 0-0. The whole mindset is what’s helped us.”