A team to remember: Helena seniors leave lasting legacy as Class 6A runner-up
Published 9:12 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2022
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor
OXFORD – It didn’t end the way they wanted it to, but the 2022 Helena softball team will go down as one of the best in school history after finishing runner-up to Athens in the Class 6A State Tournament on Wednesday, May 18.
The Huskies entered the day 2-1 in the state tournament and took down Pell City 2-0 to start the day and earn a spot in the championship against Athens looking for redemption.
Ultimately, needing two wins, the Huskies fell 4-2 to the Golden Eagles in the first game of the championship.
Even through that heartbreaking moment of tears, the players kept their heads held high, knowing what they had done.
Part of back-to-back teams to make the final four, this year’s senior class not only matched the success of last year’s run, but bettered it by earning a spot as one of the top two teams.
That’s a legacy that will live on in school history.
“We’re going to get an extension and they’re going to come back next year,” head coach Scott Lowery said with a smile about his senior class. “Seeing them mature from freshmen when I was the JV coach to where they are now; you can’t have any better maturation. They’re going to be successful, whether it be out here or in a classroom, we never have to worry about them doing what they’re supposed to. You can’t ask for anything better than that. They’re good people.”
In the championship, Helena fell behind 2-0 in the first, cut the deficit to one in the top of the second and then gave up two more in the bottom of the second to make it 4-1.
From there, similar to a 3-1 loss to Athens a day earlier, the Huskies battled.
They didn’t give up another run the rest of the way and cut into the deficit in the top of the sixth with one more run.
But they never could fully crack Athens pitcher Emily Simon, scoring three combined runs on her in two days. With that, Helena left six on base in the game, ultimately leading to the two-run loss.
Cam Bailey settled in after the first two innings and struck out four in a complete-game effort, while all four runs given up by the star senior pitcher were unearned. She allowed just four hits and no walks in her final outing with the Huskies.
At the plate, Alex Erwin had two hits, while Sara Ezekiel drove home both runs with two RBIs on one hit. Bailey and Haley Morris both had one hit each as well.
The loss, however, didn’t deter a special season or run in the eyes of Lowery.
“All the big games they won… to win 88 ballgames in two years, that’s pretty impressive,” he said. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
And the state tournament had its shares of highlights for the Huskies.
The Huskies opened the tournament with a 3-0 win against Robertsdale on Tuesday, May 18, but it was the second game of the first day of the tournament that really stuck out to the players and coaches.
Taking on Mortimer Jordan, the Huskies had a chance at redemption after the Blue Devils ended their season last year in a heartbreaking and controversial end to the game.
This year, it looked like Helena was headed back to the loser’s bracket early in the game after falling behind 4-0 in the top of the first and 7-2 in the top of the fourth.
Helena, however, responded with two in the fourth, four in the fifth and two in the sixth to overcome the deficit and pick up a 10-8 win.
“I tell you, that Mortimer Jordan game, they’re never going to forget that,” Lowery said. “They put us out last year, and I said, ‘Use it for fuel. Don’t turn it to being mad. Get the payback by earning payback.’ We were a little tight early on, but man that was fun. All the chips were for them, we switched it and they fell flat, and we jumped on them. Man, that was awesome.”
Then, after losing to Athens following the Mortimer Jordan game, Helena came back on Thursday and took down Pell City 2-0 with the season on the line.
The Huskies scored two in the first on a sac fly from Alana Scott and an RBI single from Ann Marie Stanbridge and held that 2-0 lead all the way to the finish to advance to the championship.
Stanbridge finished the game 2-for-3 with one RBI, while Scott had the one RBI. Presley Lively had two hits, while Bella Holliday and Grayson Barnett each had one hit.
And it’s those memories this year’s senior class will take with them and what Lowery will remember them by moving forward.
“It has been fun,” Lowery said. “I mean, I put them through a grind. When I first started during COVID year, they were calling me football guy and I said, ‘Well, I’ve been doing this for years with baseball’ and they finally got comfortable with me. You can see how tough they are, and it’s not because of me but because they adapted. They’re good people and teammates.”