Booth saw the potential
The expectations for Hartselle’s baseball team this season were pretty low considering the Tigers lost all but two starters from a team that won a state-record 50 games and a seventh state championship.
Hartselle head coach William Booth, the winningest coach in Alabama high school history, wasn’t about to believe the talk early in the spring that the Tigers were headed toward a rough rebuilding season.
After leading Hartselle to the state championship series for the second time in a row, Booth was chosen as the Hartselle Enquirer’s top coach.
“We’ll be in Montgomery in May,” he said quietly, but confidently, before the season started.
He didn’t change his tune when the Tigers opened with just one win in their first 13 games.
And a lot of people thought the legendary coach had spent too much time studying the calculus books that he uses in his classes each year. For many, the numbers just didn’t add up to another trip to Montgomery.
The Tigers had lost a wealth of talent, including eight players who went on to sign college scholarships. Two of those – Alabama’s Mr. Baseball Luke Bole and Chad Girodo – signed with Mississippi State.
Senior Ryan Joy was the team’s lone player with starting experience after fellow senior Robby Reece separated his shoulder during the first game of the season.
And still, Booth did not panic.
Hartselle started to win and a strong run in the Hoover spring break tournament became the springboard to another great late run.
This team wasn’t a lock on reaching the playoffs. Hartselle didn’t wrap up a playoff spot until the final area series against Athens.
The Tigers weathered the area schedule and needed a third game to get past McAdory in the third round.
But the greatest moment of the season came when the Tigers got past Southside-Gadsden – a team that many expected to be a power from the North – to reach the finals for the 10th time under Booth.
And this was probably Booth’s best coaching job of his prolific high school career.
Sports editor Todd Thompson can be reached at 773-6566 or at firstname.lastname@example.org