Lady Tigers will bounce back in '06
It didn't end like most Hartselle softball seasons have in the past few years. But, it gave a glimpse of a bright future.
The Lady Tigers fell out the postseason with a tough three-game series loss to Buckhorn, the defending 5A state champions, in the opening round of the sub-state playoffs. This was only the second time since switching to the fast-pitch game they've failed to reach the state tournament.
Expect it to be the last time for a while they miss going to Montgomery and the state tournament.
The 2005 roster included 10 sophomores who gained valuable experience. They'll be juniors in 2006 and will form the nucleus of a team, which got better each and every week this year.
According to head coach Shane Alexander, this season the young Lady Tigers felt the weight of the legacy of Hartselle softball and its three state championships.
Due to having only three seniors and because of several injuries, the entire squad, some of whom had never played in a varsity game, gained maturity on the field.
Despite their youth, they played some of the best teams in the state to a standstill. They played Buckhorn three times during the regular season before the sub-state match up with the Lady Bucks. After six games, the two teams had each won three games.
This was against the defending state champs, who returned every starter from last season.
The talent is there for a quick return to prominence and the chance to chase a state title trophy.
Kayla Orr and Shanice Johnson provide the long ball threats, while Catie Keel, Ashley Womack, Whitley Collins, Breanna Segars, Teresa Staudt, Lindsay Robinson, Rachael Fleischman, Haley Miller showed this season they could come through in the clutch at the plate.
Mary Curtis, who threw 22 innings against Buckhorn, will have two more seasons on the mound for Hartselle. That's good news for Lady Tiger fans and bad news for opponents.
Twenty wins is not the norm for Lady Tigers softball, but with only three seniors on this year's club, the younger players gained the knowledge of what it takes to compete at a high level.
Sometimes this season they took their lumps, but watch out for the next two seasons.
Hartselle will have 11 juniors next season, most of whom played this season.
Was this season a sign the talent level is being to drop off at Hartselle?
Lack of varsity experience was the only thing holding this year's squad back from going where most Hartselle softball teams have gone in the past--Montgomery , host of the state championship tournament..
Despite their youth, they nearly knocked off the defending champs, so rest assured the next two seasons will be very good ones for Hartselle softball.
I'll don't claim to know a lot about how the future will go, but I'm sure of two things happening next year.
First, in April of 2006, Uncle Sam will expect you to play your income taxes.
Then in May, the Lady Tigers will be in Montgomery vying for the state 5A softball title.
You can etch both of those predictions in stone.