E.A. Sports Today

Area loaded with strong teams

Analysis: Our man looks at the area high school softball picture

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

The rains have played havoc with the early-season softball schedule, but there have been a few breaks in the weather that have allowed some of the teams in the area to get their seasons going.

We have not seen all the teams yet, but if you take what we saw last year and what we have seen so far this year, 2015 has the chance to be a great season for some of the area teams. The Calhoun County Softball Tournament is going to be something to behold.

Defending state champion Alexandria deserves first mention. The Valley Cubs have moved up a class this year to the 5A ranks. The rain has really slowed their start as they went almost two weeks without playing.

Everybody is out to beat them this year and while they have lost some firepower off last year’s team, coach Brian Hess has some players and he will mold together a strong team by year’s end.

Shortstop Timberlynn Shurbutt has a cannon for an arm and Lauren O’Dell can bring it on the mound. They make very few mistakes and will get better each week. They throw a lot of left-handed hitters at teams and that can create a lot of opportunities at the plate.

The Cubs lost a couple of games to strong Etowah and Springville teams, but bounced back to defeat Wellborn, Sardis and Hokes Bluff. The road to the 5A state title goes through Alexandria.

Class 3A loaded with some very good teams in Pleasant Valley, Piedmont, Wellborn and Ohatchee.

We have not seen the Raiders this season, but they are off to a 5-3 start and have an impressive 13-2 win over Jacksonville. They lost by one run to a good 6A Pell City team. McKinley Parris has blasted a couple of home runs to lead a potent hitting team.

Ohatchee (7-2) has some players that are swinging hot bats and has gotten off to a good start. Morgan Lee and Jordan Dunaway are forces at the plate and they led wins over Lincoln, Weaver, Gaston and Tanner.

I really like what Wellborn and Piedmont bring to the table. Both 3A powers have played very tough early schedules. Piedmont is 4-6, but has lost three times in close games to 4A powerhouse Cleburne Co. The Bulldogs have played 6A opponents Southside, Pell City and defeated 7A Gadsden City 8-3.

Junior shortstop Torre Roberts may be the best shortstop I have seen this year. She can flat-out cover the ground and has a great arm. She can take over games at the plate and running and stealing bases. Left-handed-hitting Kendall Presley has a beautiful swing and power at the plate for the Bulldogs.

Wellborn is off to a 3-3 start with losses to Alexandria, 5A power Springville and a late-game collapse against Sardis. The Panthers had an impressive 10-0 victory over Cleburne County this week and are solid up and down the lineup.

White Plains, behind the stellar pitching of JSU signee Anna Snyder, is looking to win another County Championship and another trip to the state finals.

The Wildcats’ biggest problem in winning the 4A crown may come from neighboring Cleburne County. The Tigers (8-1) are led by power-hitting Kiara Ackles who absolutely destroys a softball and is their ace pitcher.

Saks and Jacksonville have young teams and have played well in some games and not so well in others.

Oxford is going to be hard to handle this year as it has a lot of talent coming back from last year’s 40-win season. The Yellow Jackets have a great pitching staff with the one-two punch of Rylee Waldrep and Jo Jo Skinner. They have wins over Oak Mountain and Austin in their 7-2 start and play a very strong schedule. Last year they lost in the regionals to Albertville and are looking to advance to the state this year.

Down in the 1A ranks Ragland looks to continue its dynasty. The Purple Devils have won three state championships in the last four years.

Faith has a new coach in Bradley Dawson and is looking improved, but the Lions face a difficult schedule playing teams mostly above their class. They played Ragland pretty tough in a 4-1 loss last week.

Mark these games on your calendars as must-see games this year:

March 19 — Pleasant Valley at Wellborn
March 31 — Ohatchee at Alexandria
April 2 — Pleasant Valley at Piedmont
April 6 — Piedmont at White Plains
April 7 — White Plains at Cleburne County
April 7 — Wellborn at Pleasant Valley
April 9 — Piedmont at Wellborn
April 13 — Cleburne County at White Plains
April 13 — Alexandria at Ohatchee
April 15 — Calhoun County Tournament
April 18 — Oxford at Alexandria
April 20 — Cleburne County at Oxford

Softball coaches, to report your game results and suggest story ideas to East Alabama Sports Today text 256-239-6715 or email musky@wrightmediacorp.com. Players, encourage your coaches to report your results.

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