Sarah Ellen Battles ends sports career with five rings

Caleb Suggs

Hartselle Enquirer

 

“It’s crazy to think that it’s all really over.” Those were the words from Hartselle native Sarah Ellen Battles as she looked back on her long sports career. Battles has been playing sports for as long as she can remember here in Hartselle and even continued her career into college where she played for two years at Wallace State. Now that she has finished at Wallace, she is preparing to enroll at Auburn University. While she is excited to be attending one of the top schools in the state, she couldn’t help but be sad at the fact that she will never set foot on a field or court again. “You always think you’ll play forever,” Battles said, “I can always continue playing pick up games in the backyard or the Rec center but it will never be the same.”

While Battles would go on to succeed the most in softball, it wasn’t exactly where she got her start. “Soccer was actually what I started out playing. When I was about 7 or 8 they came to my mom, who was a big softball person, and asked her to coach because they needed another team,” Battles said. “I didn’t want to play because I had seen someone my brother played with get hit in the face and I was scared to death, but I relented and I ended up loving it.”

It would be when Sarah entered junior high that she really jumped all into sports as she played on the school’s basketball, soccer and volleyball teams while also playing city league softball. However, transitioning to junior high wasn’t the easiest thing she explains. “Junior high was a lot different because it was for real now,” Battles said. “You had to try out for the teams and you weren’t guaranteed playing. It was the first time I felt a lot of pressure.” Sarah Ellen would make all the teams she tried out for it didn’t help ease the pressure for her. “Coach (Christy) Ferguson actually came to me and asked me to try out and wasn’t really sure because basketball wasn’t my best sport,” Battles said .“I remember my mom asking me after I made it and before the season if I thought I’d get to play and I said I might. I think I blew her mind when I started the first game.”

Despite playing on all the Jr. high teams, it still was only a stepping-stone into the challenges that awaited in high school. Hartselle high school has one of the top sports programs in the state of Alabama as their sport’s teams compete regularly for state titles year in and year out which puts a lot of pressure on the new players coming in to perform at the same level. Battles would also be put in the position of eliminating at least sport. “It was tough but soccer and softball were going on at the same time so I could only play one,” Battles said “I don’t really know why I went with softball but that’s what I chose.” Battles would get to experience some of the success that comes at Hartselle in her first year. “The softball team that was there that year was supposed to be the one that went on to win the state” Battles said, “There was only one non senior starter. When they went to state I was given the opportunity to go with them and I ran bases during the state tournament.” Hartselle would not claim the trophy that year but the experience left a lasting impression on Battles.

Battles first taste of a championship would come in her junior year when she was a part of the varsity volleyball team. Not many predicted a state title that year as the Tigers had lost several players from the year before and only came in with two total seniors. However, that didn’t stop Hartselle from racing all the way to the state finals. “I’m not saying that year was easy but we just knew that we were going to win that year,” Battles said. “We had to face St. Paul’s in the finals but we still knew we were going to win. The bus ride to the stadium that day was silent because we were so locked in and we ended up sweeping them in 3 sets.”

However, it wouldn’t end there, as just a year later Battles would get a chance to win another title but this time in softball. Just like in volleyball, the Tigers weren’t expected to win a state title after graduating several seniors and having not made the state tournament since Battles’ freshmen year. The Tigers just barely made it after defeating Muscle Shoals 3-2 to earn the second qualifying sport out of two spots. It would be in Hartselle’s first game at state that Battles’ would make her trademark play of her career as she reached over the outfield fence to steal a homerun in the sixth inning that would’ve won the game. Hartselle would go on to win in extra innings and this play would come to be known “The Catch.” Hartselle would finish the magical season by coming from behind to defeat Moody with a walk off homerun to win the state title. “That was without a doubt the most nervous I’ve ever been in a game,” Battles said “I always said you had to have a little luck to win a state championship and that was one of my favorite teams to play on.”

Despite this, Battles’ career wouldn’t end there. She would go on to Wallace State to play volleyball and softball. Although she would only play volleyball one year, the experience she had was something she wouldn’t trade. “The best thing about volleyball that year was doing all this stuff I would have never done,” Battles said “I met so many new people and went so to so many different places that I would have never done without volleyball.” However, it would be in softball where she made her lasting impact. “I was actually a walk on the first year” Battles said, “the pressure was about ten times worse in college, but thankfully I was able to work my way into the flex position as a fielder my first year.” Battles would work harder that offseason on her hitting to take a role as a fulltime player in her second year. In those two years, Battles would play on one of the premier junior college softball teams in the country and earned herself three rings.

Now that all of this is over, Battles is able to look back on her career and be very satisfied. “I entered high school with dreams of winning one state championship” Battles said, “I left college with five rings total.” Even though she has been big things ahead of her, she will never forget the mark that sports made on her life.

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