STATE READY: Pike Liberal Arts School Lady Patriots prepped and ready to face Tuscaloosa Academy Friday

Published 3:00 am Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Pike Liberal Arts Lady Patriots head into the AISA Softball State Tournament this Friday as the number three seed, after splitting games in the ranking tournament last week.

PLAS softball head coach Allie Park said the team had made numerous errors during their outing against Autauga in that tournament, which is what ultimately cost the Lady Pats the contest.

“We just made errors early and got down and couldn’t fight back,” Park said. “We know that we haven’t played that bad all season long, and we just really got down on ourselves.”

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Park said the team had been able to find a way to win against Monroe in their second game of last week’s tournament, but the team still was not playing at peak performance.

“We still weren’t 100 percent us in the second game, but I feel like this week of practice we’ve really been working on some balls that are really hits and how to make those outs on defense,” Park said. “We’re going to hit today and have a more relaxed practice where we can get focused and mentally ready for Friday.”

While the girls spent a majority of Wednesday’s practice hitting and getting their bats ready for Friday’s matchup against Tuscaloosa Academy, Park said the team has focused on a variety of things to regroup and hone some of the skills they need going into state competition.

“Tuesday, we didn’t hit at all, we just did defense,” Park said. “Monday we did a lot of balls in the gap and balls in the hole. These are balls that should normally be hits, but I really wanted them to be able to cover them and turn them into outs. We’ve worked on some bunt coverage, because we saw a lot of bunts from Autauga last week, so we wanted to work on that a bit more and be prepared.”

While Park said the Lady Pats had been focusing on doing the little things really well in order to play a better game, the lineup for the Friday game would not change from what fans were used to seeing.

“I’m going to go with my regular lineup,” Park said. “Really, I don’t think anybody is going to be able to beat us if we play our best, which we’ve been doing all season long. They’re a very tight knit group, and I think they really realize they’ve got something that they really want that they can get because they have the potential and all the ability in the world. They know they have to work on to get there.”

Although Park said she and assistant coach Mendy Avant had worked to regroup and focus the team, a majority of the leadership and direction had come from her two seniors, Amberlyn Baker and Kayla Benton.

“We talked a lot this week about having each other’s back and being a good teammate and believing in the other person,” Park said. “If someone makes a mistake, I want the girls to be able to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got your back.’ It’s all about being a good teammate and having good leadership with the team. The seniors have really stepped up and have been good leaders for us going into the tournament. They’ve gotten everyone back to where they needed to be.”

The Lady Patriots are set to face the Tuscaloosa Academy Knights at noon Friday in Montgomery and will play the winner of the Lee Scott vs. Autauga match up at 4 p.m. that same afternoon.

“This particular group means a lot to me not only as a coach but as someone who has watched them grow,” Park said. “I know that if we go into the tournament Friday with the right attitude, we can come out with a championship.”