Local teams hope to maintain momentum

Published 10:33 pm Thursday, May 6, 2010

Four county softball teams enter their regional tournaments on Friday with some momentum.

If they can just maintain that momentum for a 100-mile bus trip, they might earn state tournament berths.

All four teams—Chilton County, Isabella, Maplesville and Thorsby—will play in the South-Central Regional, which is hosted at the Troy Sportsplex. Last year, county teams played their regional games in Montgomery, but coaches downplayed the effect the trip would have on their hot teams.

“We’ve had a couple of road trips like that, so, nah, our girls are excited,” Isabella coach Mike Ratliff said.

Ratliff’s Mustangs (7-14) struggled this season after ace pitcher Raelynn Liveoak went out with a shoulder injury. But Liveoak, a senior, returned for the area tournament last week, and Isabella upset tournament host Thorsby and won the area title.

“We’re definitely more confident with her on the mound,” Ratliff said.

It also helped that Isabella’s No. 3 and 4 hitters in the lineup—senior first baseman Dezaray Lodge and junior catcher Kaylynn Culp, respectively—found their strokes at Thorsby, hitting five home runs in three games.

But Thorsby (8-10) finished second in the area, earning itself a trip to the regional also.

Thorsby’s biggest advantage in the regional, where a team could conceivably play five games in two days, is its pitching depth.

Coach Nicole Hilyer has at her disposal two senior pitchers in ace Tiffany Morgan and Lindsay Pease, the team’s primary pitcher last year, as well as junior Katie Barnett.

“We haven’t been as consistent as I would like,” Hilyer said. “We’re like two teams. Sometimes, we’re not all there.

“But we’ve had a good week of practice. I think the girls are excited about playing.”

Thorsby will play its first game in the double elimination tournament against Goshen at 11 a.m.

Isabella plays Zion Chapel at 12:30 p.m.

Chilton County, meanwhile, plays Valley at 8 a.m. in the Class 5A tournament.

Because of the early start, the Tigers made the trip to Troy on Thursday.

“We are trying to stay focused but relaxed,” coach Krisi Parrish wrote in an e-mail. “We got out the slip and slide one day [this week at practice] and had a blast!”

CCHS has won 11 of its last 14 games and has a 24-12 record overall.

Maplesville enters the Class 1A tournament on a similar streak, having won 13 of its last 15.

The Red Devils (20-8) haven’t lost to a team from a classification lower than 3A all year.

MHS’s season has followed a script similar to last year: start strong, struggle after spring break, and regain form in time for a playoff run. To follow the script this weekend, Maplesville will have to earn a state playoff berth.

Devils assistant coach Chad Harrison said the team will look for opportunities keep junior pitcher Courtney Killingsworth fresh.

“If we see somewhere where we can give Courtney a rest, we’ll do that,” Harrison said.

Killingsworth’s backup, freshman Autumn Smith, is more than capable. Smith won a game during last year’s regional tournament and has since improved her changeup and added a drop ball.

“We’re going in there confident, but we’re not talking about state yet,” Harrison said.

Maplesville plays Billingsley at 12:30 p.m.