The Alabama Sports Writers Association released its weekly softball and baseball rankings earlier this week.
As an association, we rely on each other for information throughout the year. That includes rankings for football, basketball, softball and baseball, all-state teams and players of the year, new coaches’ lists and more. It’s a good group, and it was a bit weird to know it would be our last communication for several weeks and possibly — I think we all fear — for the school year.
Those set of potentially final rankings made this even more of a tough pill to swallow as the sports seasons have been put on hold due to COVID-19.
Our teams had a chance to make a whole lot of noise this year.
In softball alone, our teams topped two of the eight classifications, including AISA, and were second in one.
Tallassee, which still had a bitter taste in its mouth after last year’s heartbreaking end, started out the season 15-1 and has been sitting at No. 1 in Class 5A for the first two weeks of the ASWA rankings. Likewise, ECHS has been No. 1 in Class 4A after starting the season 16-3 while Edgewood (11-5-1) climbed to No. 2 in AISA.
That doesn’t even mention Stanhope Elmore, which is now sitting at No. 6 in 6A.
That was going to be a fun — and busy — softball season. It was going to give fans a lot to cheer about and something for those individual communities to get behind.
On the baseball side, Dadeville, which I know had incredibly high hopes for this season, again after being disappointedly knocked out in Round 1 a year ago, squeezed into the top 10 in Class 3A. The Tigers were just 7-4 to start the season but had an incredibly tough schedule and were getting only better.
Edgewood’s baseball team was 6-4 before the hiatus and was ranked No. 6 in AISA. Benjamin Russell (11-7) and Wetumpka (10-4) were both nominated in Class 6A as was Holtville (7-6) in 4A.
Even for those teams that hadn’t quite made it on a statewide stage yet, many teams were fighting for something. Central Coosa’s baseball team won only three games last year and already had that many wins under its belt to begin this season. I was excited to see how the Cougars were going to evolve and if they could really be a contender this year.
We also had people like Benjamin Russell’s Taylor Harris, who is only a sophomore but that’s a big recruiting year for college softball players, and how is a long break like this — and possibly even the cancellation of an entire season — going to affect our student-athletes getting to the next level?
As the season was beginning Caleb Turrentine wrote a column about how great the softball was going to be in Elmore County and how the community needed to support those teams. And he was right. But now we need to support those teams just like before. Donate money, check in with those coaches and athletes, exercise with your kids if they are competitors.
It wasn’t just softball that was going to be special around here either. I had high hopes for Benjamin Russell’s baseball team, which made it to the quarterfinals a year ago and returned nine seniors, and I wanted to see how many more gold medals Reeltown’s Eric Shaw could win in track and field (not that I could possibly write any more interesting stories about him because I’ve written everything under the sun.)
We at Tallapoosa Publishers are committed to find a way to honor those top players who would’ve been recognized at the end of this season, and we’re going to continue to work hard to tell their stories as this coronavirus pandemic keeps spreading.
I am proud of these student-athletes for what they’ve accomplished and what they would’ve this season, and I want them to keep their heads high because I know they’re hurting.