ACA softball returns to state tourney
By Tim Gayle
Alabama Christian breezed through the South Regional unbeaten and advanced to the Alabama High School Athletic Association state softball tournament at Lagoon Park Softball Complex this week.
ACA (55-5) will face Wilson on Friday at 10:30 a.m. in the opening round of the double-elimination tournament, which features the top two seeds from each of the four regionals.
In the regional opener, Alabama Christian defeated Ashford 4-0 as Lacy Spear pitched a complete game in the circle, striking out 14 and allowing just three hits. Kaitlyn Podein had an RBI hit and scored a run and Natalee Faulkner had a double and scored a run in the victory.
The Eagles advanced to the regional final by shutting out UMS-Wright 2-0. Spear had a pair of hits, scored one of the two runs and stole two bases. Podein had a hit and scored the other run. Hailey Pittman pitched a complete-game shutout, striking out 14 and allowing just three hits.
In the regional final, Alabama Christian defeated Satsuma 8-5 as Laura Nickolson had three hits, scored a run and drove in a run, Bailey Perkins had a hit and drove in a run while scoring two and Spear had a pair of hits and scored a run.
LAMP, the Area 4 runner-up, didn’t fare as well, opening the regional with a 2-0 win over Dale County before losing to Satsuma 10-3 and dropping into the elimination round. The Golden Tigers rebounded to beat Ashford 3-0 but were eliminated by Dale County 6-3, finishing fourth in the eight-team regional.
ACA and regional runner-up Satsuma, meanwhile, are two of the eight teams still alive in the hunt for a state championship. In addition to ACA-Wilson, other first-round games include Cordova vs. Northside; Westminster Christian vs. Satsuma and Bibb County vs. White Plains.
Alabama Christian dominated the last decade of the tournament, winning state championships in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2009, but hasn’t taken home the championship trophy since. The Eagles finished second to Ardmore in 2010, second to Haleyville in 2013 and second to Alexandria in 2014 and reached the finals of the elimination round for a third-place finish in 2011.
This will be the team’s first trip to the state tournament since finishing fourth in the Class 5A tournament in 2015 after being eliminated by Beauregard. Last year, Beauregard sent the Eagles home in the South Regional, marking only the third time since fast pitch softball was initiated as a sport that ACA did not reach the state tournament.
Since making their first state tournament appearance in 1997, Alabama Christian has finished either first or second 14 times in the 19 appearances.