AISA STATE SOFTBALL: Autauga rallies to beat Macon East for crown; Marengo, Glenwood win titles
By Tim Gayle
Autauga Academy coach Jeremy Deloach went over the normal strategy with sophomore Karsyn Kemsel in the bottom of the seventh inning, telling her to make sure to only swing at “her pitch.”
It wasn’t what Kemsel wanted, but she swung anyway, giving the Generals a stunning 10-9 victory over Macon East Academy and the Class AA championship in the Alabama Independent School Association state softball tournament at Lagoon Park Softball Complex.
“I usually hit inside pitches but that was an outside pitch,” Kemsel said. “I thought it was really ironic that I hit that because I usually can’t hit outside pitches to save my life.”
Kemsel’s walkoff home run was a stunning finish to a spectacular game between the two heavyweights who had traded blows all season. Autauga (41-8) had won a softball tournament at Macon East earlier in the season by beating the Knights twice on their home field. Macon East (51-12) had earned the top seed in the state tournament but hitting a walkoff home run at Lagoon Park a week earlier in the region tournament.
“You’re going to make some plays and you’re not going to make some,” Macon East coach Glynn Lott said. “There were big innings – usually you don’t have those in these games. When you have that big inning, you kind of expect that’s enough to hold them but both teams kept battling. Nobody gave up. It was just a good game. Both of them (in the state tournament) were. Every game we’ve had with them was.”
Now, on the biggest stage, Autauga beat Macon East earlier in the day to advance to the championship game, then rallied to dispose of the Knights again.
“What made the difference for us, I think, was when we played them in regionals and got beat in the bottom half of the seventh inning on a walkoff home run,” Autauga coach Jeremy Deloach said. “They came in hungry. It’s a special group of girls.”
Macon rallied from a 3-0 deficit with five runs in the fifth, only to see Autauga regain a 9-5 lead with a grand slam from Hannah Deloach and a solo home run from Taylor Adams. Macon rallied again with four runs in the sixth to tie the game on Kayla Boroff’s two-run single.
That set the stage for Kemsel, who along with Tara Ammons was 2 for 4. But no hit was bigger this season than the one she hit in her final at-bat to deny the Knights a sixth consecutive softball state championship.
“It’s good to come out here and show them,” Kemsel said. “We’ve been working hard all year, just to come out and beat them. Every practice (the motto) is ‘Beat Macon,’ that’s our competition. That was our goal the entire year.”
The AISA runner-up trophy, meanwhile, sat alone on the first base line, forgotten by a team that didn’t set second place as a goal at the beginning of the season.
“As long as it comes through us every time, we’ll take our chances,” Lott said. “We’ve had a great run and we’ve got a lot of great players coming back, so we expect to be back again next year. Your hat goes off to them. They played two good games today.”
Kemsel was chosen as the tournament Most Valuable Player. Joining her on the AA all-tournament team were Tara Ammons, Taylor Ammons and Adams of Autauga; Dawn Johnson, Cadey Brown and Caroline Capps of Macon East; Kacy Noland and Abigail Colvin of Pickens; and Nancy Jordan of Wilcox.
Class AAA - Glenwood reigns
What a time for your first career home run.
Glenwood School senior Parker Slappey has been on the varsity for six years and a major contributor for four, but had never hit a home run until the state championship game.
Slappey’s three-run shot in the second inning helped propel the Gators to their third straight title with a 9-1 victory over Northside Methodist in the Alabama Independent School Association Class AAA state softball tournament at Lagoon Park Softball Complex on Saturday.
“The first run (on a Hope Gullatt homer) was probably the difference in the game but that blow was huge with two outs and runners at second and third,” Glenwood coach Dusty Perdue said. “I’m really tickled for her. She hasn’t had that many hits in this tournament but she had played great defense and did what she needed to do.”
Glenwood (44-15) got a solo shot from Gullatt in the first, Slappey’s blast in the second and tournament Most Valuable Player McKenna Gillespie followed with another homer for a 5-0 lead. Gillespie, a Samford signee, was 3 for 4 at the plate and struck out 12 in the circle.
“She had a blister on her finger the last three innings,” Perdue said. “She was lights out, zoned in. She came ready to play.”
Northside Methodist (29-15) got two of their three hits from Bailee Dempsey, who had a solo home run in the fourth.
Joining Gillespie on the Class AAA all-tournament team were Gullatt, Kirstin Reynolds and Neely Austin of Glenwood; Dempsey, Libbie Harden and Morgan Kramer of Northside; and Caity Joe Lee of Edgewood.
Class A - Marengo Academy wins again
They entered the postseason with a 17-17 record and few of the players had any role in Marengo Academy’s five consecutive trips to the state softball finals. The expectations, however, remain high.
“Last year was the first year in many years that we weren’t here,” Marengo coach Chris Petrey said. “But the championship mindset is still there.
“If you look at our schedule, we push the envelope as far as who we play. Every time we wrote out a lineup, we had four or five kids that were ninth, eighth or seventh graders. The numbers of upperclassmen just aren’t there so we were forced to play with younger talent.”
Marengo (23-19) suffered an 8-6 loss to Abbeville Christian Academy in the championship series, then battled back to win 3-1 and grab the Longhorns’ fifth state championship in eight years at the Alabama Independent School Association state softball tournament at Lagoon Park Softball Complex on Saturday afternoon.
Petrey replaced his starting pitcher with Mary Grace Sheffield after three consecutive walks opened the bottom of the first. Sheffield walked the next batter to score Allie Cain, but allowed just one hit the remainder of the game.
Abbeville (31-13) forced a second game after scoring four runs in the third inning of an 8-6 victory, but the Longhorns scored two in their last at-bat with a triple by Sheffield and a solo home run by tournament Most Valuable Player Macey Petrey.
“We did take the momentum from the last inning of the earlier game and they carried it into this one,” Petrey said. “It got us a three-spot in the first inning and that was enough to keep them on their heels.”
Shelby Wood and Carolina Armstrong each went 2 for 3 for the Generals in the first game and Savanna Wood drew four walks in five plate appearances.
“They’ve played strong right out of the gate,” Abbeville coach David Pair said. “We play all the bigger teams so we can compete at this level. We’re thin – we only have 13 players at the varsity level – but we’ve got some ball players. We learned a lot about each other and they played strong as a team.”
Joining Petrey on the Class A all-tournament team were Sheffield, Mary Jordan Drake and Hannah Freeman of Marengo; Cain, Shelby Wood and Savanna Wood of Abbeville; Tyler Armistead and Kassidy Tyson of Patrician; and Mary Harmon Patrenos of Sumter Academy.