Lady Rebels headed to first state tournament since 2015

Published 10:52 am Monday, May 13, 2024

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For the first time since 2015, the Zion Chapel Lady Rebels will compete in the Class 2A State Softball Tournament this week.

Zion Chapel is coming off a regional tournament that saw the Lady Rebels split their first two games before winning three straight to qualify for the state tournament.

“We did not play very well in the first day. I thought we came out flat and didn’t hit it really well and we made some mistakes in the field we don’t usually make,” ZCHS Coach Ethan Deal said. “I told our girls that that was probably the best thing that could have happened to us because it put our backs against the wall. We woke up Thursday morning and had to run the gauntlet and win three straight.

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“Our first game against JU Blacksher wasn’t great but we found a way to win and I’ve always said it doesn’t matter how ugly it is, as long as you win. Against Luverne, our bats came alive and we hit really well and the GW Long game is probably one of the wildest things I’ve ever been a part of from start to finish.”

Zion Chapel played much of day two without one of its best players and with two pitchers that had shared a huge load during the tournament.

“Shea Wambles was good the first game but she broke her finger in the second game. She’s probably our toughest player and I think she’s the glue for our team,” Deal said. “We had to move our centerfielder to second base and (Wambles) became just a base runner for us. Our team never flinched or skipped a beat. We finished the tournament without one of our best players.

“Both of my pitchers were gassed going into that last game. (Sydney Boothe) threw a little over 400 pitches in two days, but she dug deep and her and some other girls really stepped up big when we needed it. It was very, very emotional and I think that will propel us into Thursday.”

Zion Chapel will face off against Sumiton Christian in the first round of the playoffs on Thursday. Sumiton Christian was one of the top schools in Class 1A  and 2A for a number of years, winning State Championships in 2010, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Sumiton won 2A State Crowns in 2015 and 2016, a State Championship in 1A in 2017 and won the 3A State Crown in 2010. Since last moving up to 2A in 2019, Sumiton has made at least the Elite 8 three times.

Sumiton Christian won the 2A North Regional Tournament, sweeping its way through the tournament. While the Lady Rebels know they’re in for a tough test, Deal emphasizes that it’s all about how ZCHS plays.

“They’re a fairly young team and I’ve reached out to a handful of coaches and everyone has given me the same information on them, but I don’t really get too caught up in who we’re playing,” Deal said. “Softball is softball and I’ve preached it all year, it doesn’t matter who we play or where we play, it all depends on us. I think we really found that out in the regional tournament. If we play our ball then we’ll be just fine.”

The last time Zion Chapel qualified for the State Tournament was in 2015, ZCHS also faced Sumiton Christian in the first round that season. The 2015 Lady rebels were eliminated by Hatton in the tournament.

Zion Chapel plays Sumiton Christian in the first round of the double elimination tournament on Thursday in Oxford at 9 a.m.