Pelham native leads Wallace State softball to title in old stomping grounds

Published 7:27 pm Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Former Pelham High School star Kelsey Dennis led Wallace State Community College in Hanceville to the Alabama Community College Conference Region XXII tournament championship May 4 at Veterans Park in Alabaster.

The eighth-ranked Lady Lions are ACCC state champions for the fourth consecutive year and for the fifth time in six seasons after another dominating outing from Dennis, a sophomore ace.

Dennis tossed a five-hit shutout and struck out 10 as Wallace State edged Central Alabama Community College 1-0 in the championship game.

Dennis improved to 27-0 on the season and was named the tournament’s Co-MVP with teammate Kristen Skinner, who three-hit the Lady Trojans on Monday.

“This is amazing, especially with it being my last year at Wallace State. It’s great to be able to go out on top again and have a chance to finish what we left behind last year in Utah,” said Dennis, a Texas Tech commitment. “I felt real good pitching, and I knew my defense had my back. We all have trust in each other as teammates.”

Stephanie Needham provided the only offense Dennis needed with a two-out RBI double in the top of the sixth.

Wallace State has now captured six state championships under coach Jayne Clem, and the Lady Lions advance to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Softball National Championship in St. George, Utah beginning May 20 in pursuit of their second national championship in three years.

Wallace State (56-7) was the 2008 NJCAA national champion and the 2009 national runner-up.

“It’s really unreal. These kids have worked for it again all year. We’ve done what we’ve had to do,” said Clem. “We’ve worked and worked and worked, and it finally paid off. Central Alabama is a great team, but I believe we had the advantage with our pitchers and hitters.”

A day after Summer Wilkerson delivered the clutch hit for Wallace State, Needham provided the lone RBI on Tuesday, driving in Cortney McNett with two outs in the top of the sixth.

Needham also had a single for Wallace State, Dennis contributed a pair of singles and Chandler Orr and McNett each had singles.

For Central Alabama, Haley Johnson was the losing pitcher.

Johnson had a pair of hits for the Lady Trojans, while Jade Sasser, Vannessa Peterson and Hagen Vickers had a single apiece.

Wallace State went 4-0 during the three-day tournament, defeating Central Alabama twice, Faulkner State and Wallace-Dothan.

Dennis and Skinner allowed only three combined runs in 28 innings.

“They both work hard and have more to do. This past week they’ve really stepped it up and studied the game,” Clem said. “We can’t leave out catcher Chandler Orr either. She studies the chart and calls the game by herself. We wouldn’t have done it without her.”

Wallace State was showered with postseason awards after the game.

Clem was named the ACCC Coach of the Year for the ninth time.

Based on regular-season play, Dennis and shortstop Saige Wright were named to the All-Region XXII 1st Team, while Skinner and McNett were second-team selections.

Needham, Wilkerson and McNett were All-Tournament selections along with the Co-MVP’s.

Members of the ACCC All-North team are Dennis, Skinner, Needham, McNett, Wilkerson, Wright, Orr, Ali Barnette and Katie Pierce.

“These awards are great for all of these girls. They are adding to the tradition at Wallace State,” Clem said. “They’ve known since they got here what’s expected.”