If there could be one word to sum up the Horseshoe Bend Generals’ season, it had to be improbable.
From the start, the cards were against the Generals. They had a number of things to deal with and like most other schools in Alabama, they were facing COVID-19 head on and battling through every sense of the word adversity.
Their season was improbable due to a host of youth nestled around a very small senior class and it was even less likely that they would find themselves in a three-way tie for area. The area coin flip went by way of the Generals for them to host and punch their ticket to regionals.
There were a lot of circumstances in 2021 that could’ve seen the Generals sitting at home. And yet, they conquered the odds and continued to battle throughout the season.
Unfortunately, the Generals’ season came to a quiet end. Their first game against Vincent was a 4-0 loss. The second game against Locust Fork, a 10-0 drubbing.
Horseshoe Bend head coach Hagen Whiteard walks back to the dug out before the first inning of play in game two. Darius Goodman/Tallapoosa Publishers
Even so, it was the improbable that led their season.
“I don’t even know where to start,” coach Hagen Whiteard said. “This group of girls were a special one and that’s what I told them in the huddle. They’re such a special group. There was some adversity from the get go because we had some building to do from the beginning. But they fought hard all season and have never given up.
“Yes, we played with a little bit of that inconsistency but overall they have stayed steady the whole time and they have continued to fight,” she continued. “I just hate that this is how it ended.”
In both games, the Generals found their struggles and issues magnified on the stage that featured the final 32 programs in the class. Hitting was there and the Generals were able to get on base; however, they struggled to bring runners around for scores.
Whiteard says that they didn’t take advantage of situations in both games where they had runners in scoring position. It came down to not having the same mental toughness to bare down and drive in runs like that.
As the sun sets on their season, so too does it set on the seniors that will depart the program. It also turns the page in Whiteards’ career. The seniors that have stuck with the softball program are the first that she was able to teach when she came back to Horseshoe Bend.
“When I came back to Horseshoe Bend, they were my first group of freshmen in the classroom and the first year I started coaching,” Whiteard said. “They kinda been here along with my ride and they’re a very special group. Wherever life takes them, whatever road for these next few years in college, they’re going to be just fine. They’re going to excel at everything they do and they will definitely be missed out here on the softball field with us.”
Caly Carlise prepares to throw the ball to first in the opening inning of play. Darius Goodman/Tallapoosa Publishers
When the sun rises once more, the Generals have a host of returning players slated to come back and be impactful next season. Although, it will be hard to imagine the future without the senior class, Whiteard knows that her program has a lot of potential coming to it.
“It’s hard not to be excited about that for those younger kids who have some time left – as sad as it is to see these girls move on,” Whiteard said. “They’ve got a lot of good things coming to them. We’ll take it when it comes next year and we’ll start working as soon as possible and hopefully we’ll be back here with a different outcome next year.”