Devils hope third time is the charm

Published 6:50 pm Thursday, May 19, 2011

Back again: Maplesville softball players Kiana Andrews, left, and Natalie Arnold have been crucial components of a squad that hopes to at least win its first game in three appearances in the state tournament.

Maplesville’s softball team has been here before, and this time they want to play like it.

The Red Devils have made appearances in the past two Class 1A state softball tournaments but each time have been eliminated in two consecutive games.

It’s no consolation that the four losses have come by an average of 2.5 runs. Last season, MHS led both Waterloo and Ariton before falling.

But this is a different season and team.

Only four starters return at their same position from last year’s squad, and it looked for much of the regular season like the replacements wouldn’t be able to match the accomplishments of their predecessors.

At 9 a.m. Friday, they instead have a chance to do something neither of the past two Maplesville squads have been able to do: win a game in the state tournament, to be held at Montgomery’s Lagoon Park.

“The girls had to work harder this year to get where they’re at,” coach Ashlie Harrison said. “We started out a little slow, but luckily, finally, we’re peaking when we need to.”

MHS features two standout pitchers—Courtney Killingsworth and Autumn Smith—who help keep each other fresh by eating up innings.

But it won’t matter if they don’t score runs. Maplesville’s lineup this season has been top heavy: leadoff batter Morgan Little (.364 batting average, .529 on-base percentage and 13 stolen bases), cleanup hitter Killingsworth (.400 average, .560 OBP, 6 percent strikeout rate and 37 runs batted in) and No. 5 hitter Kiana Andrews (.390 average and 36 RBI) lead the team in almost every major offensive category.

The Devils play South Lamar in their first tournament game in a rematch from April 16, when Lamar won, 7-1, in a tournament at American Christian Academy.

“We made eight errors, and we didn’t hit the ball,” Harrison said. “We think we’ve got a chance if we come out and play ball, hustling the whole time.”

The team didn’t come out and play ball last year, Harrison said, instead sleepwalking through the first game, which started at 9 a.m.

To avoid a similar performance, the Devils traveled to Montgomery Thursday and stayed overnight, so there will be no early morning bus trip this time.

“This is our third year in a row going to state,” Harrison said. “We have to be able to focus and play our game. We have to be confident and know we’re one of the best eight teams in the state.”