Spring spells softball season in Chilton County

Published 12:59 pm Tuesday, February 21, 2023

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By Carey Reeder | Staff Writer

Softball fields across Chilton County are soon to be filled with fans and the sweet sounds of metal bats as the 2023 softball season gets underway this week. With some new faces in the coaching ranks and others looking to continue to establish their respective programs, the competition level should be high around Chilton County this season.

One of the new coaches this season, which is not a new face to those in the Jemison community, is head softball coach at Jemison High School Leighsa Robinson. Robinson graduated from JHS and coached at the school from 2004-2016. After a few years at Thorsby High School, Robinson returns to her roots with the Panthers.

While Robinson said her time at Thorsby was very enjoyable, Jemison always called her home.

“You just have a special kind of love for your school,” Robinson said. “There is something about coming home that just gives you a sense of pride.”

Robinson said she is excited to just get back into the game of softball, and has a lot to look forward to with her roster being senior loaded. With six seniors on the roster, including an above .400 hitter in Kinsley Martin and 20-RBI hitter Makayla Lang returning this season.

“I have a lot of good leadership, and I just have players in general that have worked hard and are putting in the effort,” Robinson said. “I am so proud of the kids that have come out and worked. We are going to be leaning on our seniors this year for leadership, but it is going to take each one of us to have a great season.”

Jemison’s softball field is getting a new look going into the 2023 season as well, tearing down the concrete bleachers that have been at the field since 1971. The new bleachers are expected to be completed before the Panthers first home games against Thorsby on Feb. 27 and Chilton County High School on Feb. 28.

The aforementioned Thorsby Rebels get their season started on Feb. 23 hosting in-county foe Maplesville High School at 5:30 p.m. The Rebels will have to replace three key senior losses in Lindsey Burnett, Autumn Edwards and Cameron Lockhart who all had above a .420 average last season. However, the Rebels do return junior Makinley Turner who batted .500 last season and piled up 46 hits, 39 RBIs and four home runs. Sophomore Brooklyn Reeser will also step into a more prominent role in 2023 boasting a 47-hit, 21-RBI season last year.

Maplesville lost its fair share of seniors with 2022 All-County performers Emliee Smith, Avery Reed and Jayla Nix all graduating. The Red Devils do return their best pitcher in senior Lexi Smith who struck out 92 hitters last season, and senior Laci Cook who hit for a .362 average last season.

Maplesville will be joined in AHSAA Class 1A Area 6 by Verbena and Billingsley high schools. Verbena has a new man at helm this season with Geoffery Lockhart taking over as the head coach. Lockhart made a few stops at Hueytown and Montevallo high schools before landing at Verbena. A graduate of Isabella High School, Lockhart said coming to Verbena is a special time for him.

“For me, it is like coming home,” Lockhart said. “It is nice to be back at a small school.”

Lockhart will have some great players at his disposal in his first season led by junior Jaycee Quinn, the 2022 The Clanton Advertiser Player of the Year. Quinn hit for an astonishing .653 batting average last season and tallied 66 hits, 33 doubles and seven home runs. Quinn is also the Red Devils best pitcher and will return to the circle this season off a 15-10 record last season with a 4.06 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 119 innings pitched.

“We are returning a lot of our hitters from last year,” Lockhart said. “We have some new girls coming up that are going to help fill some of the spots we lost last year, but we should be pretty strong.”

Junior Jasmin Moates also returns for Verbena this season with her 44-hit, 27-RBI and 14-double last season in her back pocket. Moates had a .543 batting average last season as well. Sophomore Kiara Ray is another player returning for Verbena this season who played a key role last season.

“We are a really tight-knit group, and everyone is really close, and I am looking forward to seeing how they react throughout the season,” Lockhart said. “Our goal this year is to make the state tournament, and I believe that is something we are very capable of doing. It is really exciting to have such a talented group of young ladies to rally with.”

Verbena lost Madison Bryant from last season to graduation, but she is stepping into the coaching staff and heading up the junior varsity softball team this season for Verbena.

Verbena gets its season underway this week with its first home game on Feb. 24 against Montevallo in the Verbena Softball Tournament.

Billingsley will be a part of the Verbena Softball Tournament on Feb. 24-25 as well playing Shelby County High School in its first game action of the 2023 season. The Bears first home game is on March 2 hosting Verbena and are led by coach Tyler Kelley this season.

Chilton County High School will have a good mix of young and old talent in 2023 as the Tigers look to build off a solid 2022 season. Replacing University of Alabama signee Marlie Giles and top pitchers Emma Deason will be a challenge, but one the Tigers are prepared to take on. Sophomore Macey Pierce, a .420 hitter with 60 hits, 43 RBIs and 12 home runs, returns to the lineup along with the likes of Maecie Driskell, Mallie Harrison and Chloe Shiers who will all be crucial in leading the way for CCHS in 2023.

CCHS gets its season underway on Feb. 23 traveling to Marbury High School, and the Tigers first home game is on March 7 hosting Wetumpka High School.

Isabella and head coach Kacie Adams used the words “optimistic” to describe their outlook going into the 2023 season. The Mustangs graduated its two corner infielders from last season and are looking at Kelsey Cox and Morgan Short to step in to fill those roles. Cox already has experience at third base in her career and hopes her best year at the hot corner is her senior year in 2023. This season will be Short’s first season at first base for Isabella.

“She has been handling it great, and we are looking forward to how she is going to approach that new position,” Isabella coach Kacie Adams said.

Adams said the best part of the new season is just getting on the field and seeing the players play.

“I am very optimistic about this season, and we have four seniors stepping up and filling roles after some graduated last year,” Adams said, “They are really stepping up and becoming leaders this year, and it has really given us a good view on how this season is going to turn out.”

Returners Amelia Fjeldstad and Anna Johnson will also play a key role for the Mustangs this season. Isabella’s season gets started on Feb. 28 hosting B.B. Comer High School.