Carrying on the standard: Thompson softball team finishes season on final day of state tournament

Published 12:59 pm Saturday, May 20, 2023

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

OXFORD – Despite falling short of repeating as Class 7A State Champions, the Thompson softball team continued to live by their motto to finish off the 2023 season on Saturday, May 20 at Oxford’s Choccolocco Park.

The Warriors ultimately lost an elimination game against Sparkman by a final score of 9-4, but looking back on the month-long trek of getting out of arguably the most challenging area and regional tournaments in the state and into the final day of the state tournament, the 2023 team continued to “Be the standard.”

“Being the standard, we want people to look at this program in more ways than just softball,” head coach Kevin Todd said after the season-ending loss. “We talk about everyday life, be the standard—be the standard in the classroom, be the standard at church, in the community and on the softball field. Being the standard is just being that person that nobody is going to outwork, we’re going to keep praising God and putting Him in our program, and that’s going to be our standard, and that’s what it stands for.”

That slogan graced the back of many Thompson shirts throughout the season, and it led to the Warriors battling out of an area that featured No. 8 Tuscaloosa County, No. 4 Hoover and No. 5 Vestavia Hills before then fighting through a regional that featured Tuscaloosa County once again, No. 2 Hewitt-Trussville and No. 7 Spain Park.

With that, the defending champs earned a spot back in the state tournament, and despite opening with a 2-1 loss to No. 3 Fairhope, the Warriors bounced back to take down No. 9 Enterprise and top-ranked Central-Phenix City to earn a spot as one of the final four teams left standing on the final day of the state tournament.

“Start with our area, so tough, and regionals, so tough. It’s just been a battle for the last month,” Todd said. “Like I told our players last night, people don’t know what kind of fight and heart they have. They have it. They’re special. They’re special to me. I treat them like my own and I just love them.”

Ultimately, Thompson fell behind 2-0 to Sparkman in the top of the first inning, put the Warriors in a situation of battling from behind early.

The hole got even deeper with the Senators scoring one run each in the third and fourth innings to take a 4-0 lead.

The Warriors, however, weren’t ready to give up on their season.

A double from Hannah Hobbs, a walk from Aubrey Hooks and a single from Dailynn Motes helped Thompson load the bases with no outs in the bottom of the fifth.

In need of a big inning, a sac fly from Olivia Tindell brought home one run before another walk to Laney Williams loaded the bases right back.

Kendall Channell then drove home a second run on an RBI groundout, while back-to-back walks and a hit batter led to two more runs crossing the plate.

All of a sudden, the game was tied 4-4 before a groundout ended the inning.

“I thought we were going to have some more magic there,” Todd said. “We thought we could score on them, the umpire was a little tight, we had some good at bats and put some stuff together. We tied it up and I really thought, ‘Hey, we’re about to win the game.’”

But Sparkman answered in a massive way.

The Senators came back to the plate, and with one out, they strung together six consecutive batters reaching base safely thanks to errors and hits with a two-RBI double, and two RBI singles giving them an 8-4 lead. They then added one more with two outs on a bases-loaded walk to make it 9-4.

Thompson got a lead-off double at the bottom of the order to start the bottom of the sixth, setting the stage for the top of the order, but two pop outs and a line out with a great catch ended the threat.

The Warriors got to the bottom of the final inning with the same score, but one last hit from Chalea Clemmons, who had a stellar tournament, was the only damage as Sparkman finished off the five-run win.

Regardless of the outcome, Todd was proud of his team and grateful for the opportunity to get a crack at the final day of the state tournament.

“We’re blessed either way,” he said. “We are grateful and thankful to be here. We won it last year, great, but like we said, with the last month, to get to the last day, that’s all you can ask for. Get to the last day and maybe the ball bounces your way. It just didn’t today.”