Year in review: Playoff runs and new coaches make up 2016 season

Published 3:00 am Thursday, December 29, 2016

In 2016, the local softball teams made a push for the postseason with both Pike County and Pike Liberal Arts ending the school year in the playoffs.

2016 was also a year of new head coaches, as Charles Henderson and Pike Liberal Arts both welcomed in new coaches.

The Pike Liberal Arts Patriots welcomed in a new coach for the 2016 season in Robert Rollan. Under Rollan, the Patriots advanced to Montgomery and took part in the AISA Class 3A State tournament at Lagoon Park where they finished in fourth place.

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“Last year’s team was a bunch of warriors who overcame constant adversity to finish in the top four of AAA softball,” Rollan said. “I was extremely proud of the leadership shown by our seniors throughout the season.

The Patriots had playmakers all over the field in 2016 and ended the season with three players making the All-Messenger team. One of those players, Samantha Yarbrough, was named the Messenger Player of the Year after she batted .400, with a team-leading 15 homeruns and 50 RBIs in 50 games played. As a pitcher, Yarbrough appeared in 26 games and threw 146 innings and racked up a record of 12-10 and had 217 strikeouts.

Yarbrough wasn’t the only Patriot to win a postseason award. Rollan took home Coach of the Year honors after leading the Patriots to the state tournament.

Kayla Dendy and Amanda Finlayson represented the Patriots in the senior All-Star game, while teammates Callee Jinright and Danielle Brown played in the Junior All-Star game in Montgomery.

The Charles Henderson Trojans had a familiar face patrolling the dugout in 2016. Rob Snyder returned to Charles Henderson in 2016 after being away for two seasons and led the Trojans to a 13-15 record. Their season came to a close when they lost to Eufaula in a pair of games in the Class 5A Area 3 Tournament.

One of the highlights of the season came when one of the Trojans leaders, Lakin Turner signed a scholarship to attend and play softball at Enterprise State Community College.

“I am very excited,” Turner said on signing day. “Its just a big relief knowing that I know where I am going. I don’t have to worry about that heading into my senior season of softball.”

Pitcher Sydney Armstrong, infielder Tucker Earls and pitcher Emma Kirkpatrick all represented the Trojans on the All-Area Team in 2016.

The Goshen Eagles entered the 2016 season riding a six-year streak that saw the Eagles participate in the Class 2A State Tournament. This year, the Eagles entered the season with five seniors, but two young pitchers in Sydni Garrett and Hannah Calhoun took the mound for the Eagles in what was an inconsistent season.

“We just couldn’t get anything rolling,” said Eagles head coach Amy Warrick. “We had a transitional year with our pitching. We had two young pitchers, but we also lost a lot of hitting that we had to get better and in the end, we just couldn’t do it.”

The Eagles entered the area tournament with hopes of advancing to the playoffs. After falling to New Brockton 11-0 in game one, the Eagles fell to rival Zion Chapel, ending their season.

Even though the pitching staff had an up and down season, coach Warrick was impressed with how they responded in their first season of varsity softball.

“I was proud of them,” Warrick said. “Even though we wished things could have been different, I told them both at the end of the season that I was really proud of them. They learned a lot and I think they are coming out of it really focused.”

Carmen Kelly finished the season on the All-Area team after batting .421 with four homeruns and 25 RBIs. Calhoun also made the team after batting .421.

The Pike County Lady Bulldogs continued to build a program in 2016 under second year head coach Fawn Sims. With lone senior Lakin Maulden, the Bulldogs had their sights on making a run in the state playoffs.

“I feel that it was yet another step in the right direction towards continuing the process,” Sims said. “The players felt good about the progress that was made throughout the spring season and even more about  how we progressed during the summer practices and play dates.”

The Bulldogs entered the Class 3A area tournament and needed to win their final game over Abbeville to advance to Gulf Shores and the Regional Tournament. Brooke Bennett went 4-5 with an RBI and the Bulldogs won the back and forth affair 16-8.

In the regional tournament in Gulf Shores, the Bulldogs were outscored 28-4 in the tournament in losses to Excel 18-4 and to Slocomb 10-0.

Maulden, one of two Bulldogs to make the All-Area team, signed a scholarship to attend Spring Hill College.

“Realizing that I have an opportunity to go to a school that is transferring to Division 2 is really exciting,” Maulden said on signing day. “I am ready to see what the program has in store for me and what I can do for the program.”

Along with Maulden, Bennett finished the season on the All-Area team after having a 3.82 ERA with 95 strikeouts.

The Zion Chapel Rebels advanced to the South Central Regionals in 2016, which were held at the Troy Sportsplex. After splitting day one of the tournament against Horseshoe Bend and Holy Spirit, the Rebels season came to and end on day 2 after they fell to Reeltown 5-3.

Billie Copeland and Ivey Amlong were both selected All-Area.