‘Unbelievable’: Pelham coaches, players reflect on special postseason run

Published 7:19 pm Friday, May 20, 2022

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

JACKSONVILLE – Walking back to the dugout after his team had just lost the final of a best-of-three series with Hartselle in the Class 6A State Championship, Logan Green immediately started hugging his teammates before telling them, “I love y’all.”

Tears then started to fill his eyes, but his teammates around him started to join in on the hugs and congratulations after realizing the magical run they went on during the 2022 season.

A month earlier, it was a team flying under the radar entering the postseason at 10-15. But on Friday, May 20, they were one of the two best teams in the 6A classification.

“I want to say how proud I am of our guys and what we have done since after spring break,” head coach Sean Anderson said. “I don’t know that anybody in the state gave us much of a chance coming into the playoffs at 10-15, but they believed in each other, they played their hearts out and they played for each other.”

Pelham ultimately lost game one of the series 5-1 on Thursday night at Oxford’s Choccolocco Park and came back a day later to Jacksonville State needing to win two games.

In the second game of the series, the Panthers fell behind 2-0 in the top of the second, but remained tight through the first four innings of the game.

After Hartselle took a 3-0 lead in the top of the third, Pelham came back and loaded the bases in the bottom half with one out thanks to a single from Jake Fox and walks from Chase Saul and JD Wilkins.

A passed ball then allowed Fox to score to cut the deficit to two runs with the other runners moving to second and third with one out.

Back-to-back strikeouts, however, limited the damage done, as Hartselle got out of a jam in an important moment.

Then, after a scoreless fourth inning, Hartselle put together its best inning of the series in the top of the fifth with a seven-run spurt that put the Tigers in front 10-1.

Pelham scored one more in the bottom half on an RBI single from JD Wilkins, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the big inning by the Tigers in the loss.

The heartbreaking end to the season, however, didn’t erase the special run that earned them a spot in the championship series.

In the playoffs, Pelham won series against Lee-Montgomery, No. 2 Saraland, No. 5 Hueytown and Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa, winning three consecutive decisive game threes in that span.

The wins against the second-ranked Spartans and fifth-ranked Godlen Gophers came in back-to-back weeks.

“It was the best experience ever,” Wilkins said. “Even practices got more fun because it was like a weight was lifted off our shoulders. We had finally crossed that barrier. The closest I’ve been was freshman year against Helena. It was like we finally broke that barrier, and once we broke it, we wanted to show everybody what we truly can do and who we are as a baseball club. I think we did a good job of that. We had a tough last two days on the field, but hey, that’s baseball.”

Anderson knows how special this group was, and said he would describe them as unbelievable for their effort and that they should be proud of what they accomplished.

“I told them after it was over not to hang their head,” he said. “Some of them were really, really upset and I was proud of them for that because what they brought back to the community of Pelham is something we haven’t had in a while. It’s always been there, but when you get in the playoffs, it’s just different. They got us into the playoff and they got the community support going again. I can’t thank them, the fans and the administration enough for getting that atmosphere back to Pelham baseball.”

Another key leader during the magical run was Christian Pritchett, who had one of the hottest bats on the team during the stretch and was also key on the mound.

He described the run as one of the most fun experiences he had ever had, and used one word to describe the tem, “Resilient.”

Anderson said it stemmed from former player Jake Corbitt, who came in last year and talked about Pelham over self.

“These guys took that to heart,” Anderson said. “It wasn’t one or two guys, it was always somebody else. If somebody was having a bad day, somebody else was having a great day and there to pick them up.”

From there, it became all about proving everyone wrong once they started to gain traction late in the season, which led to finishing second in the area and going on a memorable ride to the championship series.

“We had a quote in the locker room that we used,” Wilkins said. “We heard everybody picking against us every week. Our mindset in the locker room was, ‘Nobody thinks we can do it, but hey, Why not us?’”

And from there, the unbelievable run took off.

“We certainly believed it, but from the outside, it was unbelievable,” Anderson said. “For me, this team is defined by family, brotherhood and pride.”