First softball poll of 2018 features 8 teams

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

Starting with all three of the county’s Class 7A teams, five local softball teams were ranked in the first Alabama Sports Writers Association’s poll of the 2018 season.

The poll is voted on by sports writers from around the state and breaks each of the seven classifications, as well as the AISA, down into the top 10 teams.

Helena, Oak Mountian, Spain Park, Thompson and Vincent were all ranked in their respective top 10, while Chelsea and Pelham received nominations for a spot in the Class 6A top 10.

While softball may be one of the county’s strongest sports each and every year, it seems to be exceptionally good this year and it starts with all three 7A teams from the county being inside the top eight of the standings.

Spain Park isn’t just the highest ranked county team in Class 7A, but the highest ranked team in the county.

With an overall record of 14-2, the Jaguars earned a ranking of No. 2 in the 7A classification. They have wins against 7A No. 4 Auburn, 7A No. 5 Baker, 7A No. 7 Tuscaloosa County and 4A No. 1 Alabama Christian.

The Jags’ two losses came to Chelsea, 3-0 in game two of the season, and Oak Mountain, 5-4 in the Jag Classic. Despite head coach C.J. Hawkins being worried about the lack of seniors on this year’s team, they are clearly back in the mix for another playoff run.

Almost as impressive have been the Oak Mountain Eagles so far this season, who with an overall record of 12-5 earned the spot just behind SPHS at No. 3.

Oak Mountain’s five losses have come to 7A No. 1 Sparkman, 6A No. 4 Daphne (twice), 2A No. 1 Hatton and an unranked Baldwin County team. The Eagles have, however, beaten some good competition as well with wins over Spain Park, Robertsdale, Hayden, Lincoln and Tuscaloosa County.

The Eagles and Jags will compete for an area championship like they do every season, but the two look to be the two from their area that will make the postseason.

While Thompson is ranked the lowest of the three 7A teams at No. 8, the Warriors sit at 12-3 overall and have possibly been the most impressive of the three.

Thompson has scored 117 runs through 15 games, which is good enough for an average of 7.8 runs per game. While that’s impressive, the pitching and defense has also been sound not giving up more than five runs in any game and they did that just once in an 18-5 rout of Vestavia.

The Warriors’ defense is giving up just an average of 1.87 runs per game and all three losses have come by scores of 3-1.

While they sit in a difficult area with Vestavia, Hoover and No. 7 Tuscaloosa County, the Warriors have a strong chance to not just be one of the top two teams, but win the area title.

While Chelsea and Pelham were on the outside looking in when it came to the 6A standings, Helena was firmly in at the No. 6 spot with an overall record of 12-3 and may be the best team in the county this season.

Like Thompson, the Huskies’ offense has been on fire scoring 10 or more runs in 10 of their 15 games so far this season. Already sitting at 2-0 in area play with combined wins of 21-3 over Chelsea (15-3) and Pelham (6-0), Helena has shown it can easily take the area crown this season.

The Hornets and Panthers, however, will seemingly battle for the second playoff spot, which means one extremely good team will be left out of the playoffs from one of the strongest areas.

Pelham, at 8-4, is off to a solid start under first-year head coach Rachel McClure. The Panthers have won four games in a row scoring 11, 18, 13 and 15 runs, respectively, in each of those games.

Sitting at 6-8, Chelsea has been struggling early in the season, but have competed in an extremely difficult area. The Hornets have currently lost five games in a row, but all have come against other ranked teams.

The Shelby County Wildcats are also in the standings and ranked No. 10 in the Class 5A standings.

Sitting at 5-0 on the season, Shelby County has taken down teams by a combined 71-11 in just five games. That’s an unbelievable average of 14.2 points per game thanks to wins of 17-1, 11-1, 20-3, 8-6 and 15-0.

As part of those five wins, the Wildcats have also started area play 2-0 as they look to host the area tournament for the second consecutive season.

The last of the teams to actually find a spot in the top 10 was the Vincent Yellow Jackets, who came in at No. 10 in the Class 2A standings. The Yellow Jackets are the only undefeated team in the conference with a 9-0 record.

They have wins against Childersburg (twice) Heritage Academy (twice), Victory Christian, Tarrant (three times), Winterboro, and Tarrant.

Full rankings are below:

CLASS 7A
1. Sparkman (14-0)
2. Spain Park (14-2)
3. Oak Mountain (12-5)
4. Auburn (15-4)
5. Baker (14-4)
6. Fairhope (15-4)
7. Tuscaloosa County (9-6)
8. Thompson (13-3)
9. Mary Montgomery (14-6)
10. Buckhorn (6-3)
Others nominated: Central-Phenix City (13-7), Enterprise (11-6), Hewitt-Trussville (8-3), Huntsville (7-4), Prattville (9-4), Smiths Station (14-6), Vestavia Hills (7-7).

CLASS 6A
1. Gardendale (27-1)
2. Hazel Green (9-1)
3. Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (9-1)
4. Daphne (13-5)
5. Saraland (17-1)
6. Helena (12-3)
7. Hartselle (7-3)
8. Oxford (5-8)
9. Benjamin Russell (15-4)
10. Northview (12-3)
Others nominated: Austin (4-2), Chelsea (6-7), Pelham (8-4), Pinson Valley (6-8), Southside-Gadsden (5-3).

CLASS 5A
1. Springville (12-2)
2. Scottsboro (12-2)
3. Alexandria (6-1)
4. Hayden (9-1)
5. Mortimer Jordan (11-8)
6. Rehobeth (10-3)
7. Lincoln (17-6)
8. Eufaula (12-4)
9. Guntersville (7-3)
10. Shelby County (4-0)
Others nominated: Ardmore (6-2), Beauregard (10-8), Corner (8-5), Demopolis (10-6), Faith Academy (15-4), Guntersville (6-3), Jemison (10-4), Moody (9-6).

CLASS 4A
1. Alabama Christian (12-2)
2. Wilson (15-1)
3. Holtville (15-4)
4. Hale County (8-3)
5. Cherokee County (13-1)
6. Central-Florence (12-4)
7. North Jackson (7-2)
8. Madison Academy (8-1)
9. Bibb County (3-1)
10. Northside (3-7)
Others nominated: Cordova (11-5), Danville (4-4-1), Haleyville (4-1), Satsuma (12-6-1), Tallassee (11-4), Westminster Christian (6-6), White Plains (8-4), Winfield (6-1).

CLASS 3A
1. Plainview (9-1)
2. Pisgah (4-1)
3. American Christian (10-1)
4. Geneva (12-3)
5. Wicksburg (17-2)
6. Prattville Christian (11-5)
7. Locust Fork (7-1)
8. Sylvania (6-3)
9. East Lawrence (7-5)
10. Excel (17-5)
Others nominated: Colbert Heights (12-0), Elkmont (9-1), Gordo (2-6), Lauderdale County (5-1-1), Pleasant Valley (10-4), Slocomb (8-5), Walter Wellborn (5-3).

CLASS 2A
1. Hatton (9-3)
2. Lamar County (8-5)
3. Mars Hill Bible (9-1)
4. Colbert Heights (12-0)
5. Leroy (11-5)
6. Sand Rock (8-1)
7. Collinsville (9-7)
8. Ariton (8-6)
9. Cold Springs (5-4)
10. Vincent (9-0)
Others nominated: Falkville (6-7), Fayetteville (6-6), G.W. Long (4-6), J.U. Blacksher (5-3).

CLASS 1A
1. Brantley (16-1)
2. South Lamar (10-2)
3. Sumiton Christian (5-5)
4. Skyline (3-2)
5. Spring Garden (5-2)
6. Pleasant Home (5-2)
7. Marion County (6-6)
8. Sweet Water (9-6)
9. Berry (4-7-1)
10. Appalachian (4-3)
Others nominated: Lynn (8-9), Ragland (3-4), Wadley (1-2), Waterloo (5-7).

AISA
1. Macon-East (22-3)
2. Autauga Academy (23-6)
3. Pickens Academy (6-2)
4. Glenwood (20-6)
5. Edgewood (16-8)
6. Abbeville Christian (11-6)
7. Clarke Prep (18-3)
8. Patrician Academy (7-7)
9. South Choctaw (8-3)
10. Chambers Academy (7-1)
Others nominated: Marengo Academy (10-9).