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Lizi Arbogast / The Outlook Dadeville's Jailee Kirkland (3) has extremely versatile player for the Tigers and is hoping to continue her softball career at Southern Union.

When Jordan McGuire took over the Dadeville softball program in 2019, she knew she was in for an adventure. The Tigers struggled her first season but with a solid group of seniors set to return, McGuire had high expectations for 2020.

Those expectations were just starting to be met for the Tigers, who were led by their six seniors, before the season was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I hate that we didn’t get to finish the season and see all the stuff we had planned and how it played out,” McGuire said. “The other aspect to it was it was so abrupt. We went from having the whole half of the season left then all our games got canceled. They didn’t get their Senior Night or an area tournament. There’s so much they all missed out on, and I just really hate it for them.”

At least a few of Dadeville’s seniors will see a return to the field one day though. The recruiting class for the seniors was led by Timirian Tinsley, who is signed to play Division I softball at Alabama A&M. Tinsley was a top pitcher for the Tigers and also a solid hitter.

“She was really versatile,” McGuire said. “When she wasn’t pitching, she was at first or third. We never had to try her in the outfield, but she was in lots of places in the infield. She always did what she needed to do. 

“We played one tournament at Wetumpka and her fingers were hit on her pitching hand, and we didn’t know if she could grip the ball. But she fought through it, so she definitely has a great drive.” 

Several other Tiger seniors are hopeful about continuing their softball careers at the next level. Makya Johnson was another regular in the circle and she also took up the starting first base spot this year.

“This was the first year she really started there and she did great at first base,” McGuire said. “When she was called on to pitch, she did great there too. Last year she had a shoulder problem and there’s just no telling what would’ve happened as the year went on because it was so far, so good for her. She’s just got a great personality too.” 

Jailee Kirkland, who played multiple positions throughout her years with Dadeville, is looking to play softball at Southern Union. Like most of the Tigers, Kirkland’s versatility should serve her well.

“I saw some confidence grow in her this year,” McGuire said. “She’s hard on herself, which most any player is that really loves the sport. She started at shortstop this year and she got to where that was her home. We tried her on both sides of the plate too and she was just a really good asset to the team.” 

Like Kirkland, McGuire said Sidaesha Heard was another senior who was always her biggest critic. She played left field for the Tigers and was always looked to get better at the plate. Heard is also a hopeful to play at the next level.

“She did a great job over in left field,” McGuire said. “She was one of those that was really hard on herself at the plate, so we worked with her to get her confidence up. She would have one bad at-bat and thought she couldn’t do it but we always knew she could.”

Malorie Meadors, who was regular starter for several years, plans to continue her education at Southern Union and was another diverse player for the Tigers. After starting at second base and right field, she was moved to be the starting center fielder this year and McGuire said that paid dividends.

“Her wheels in the outfield and her time were really, really good,” McGuire said. “I moved her around a lot in the lineup and she always did a pretty good job of getting on base or bunting, and she was always putting pressure on the other team’s defense.” 

The only other senior for Dadeville was Savannah Richardson, who played some in the outfield. Her biggest asset was her bat.

“She was fantastic at bunting so anytime we had the opportunity, we took it,” McGuire said. “Sometimes as a coach you don’t know 100% if some can lay down a bunt, but Savannah always laid it down. We would utilize that all the time.” 

The hardest part about losing this senior class for McGuire will be just how much Dadeville has to replace. The six girls could play in virtually any spot in the infield or outfield and they threw the majority of the Tigers’ innings the last two years.

“I had pitchers in the group, outfielders, infielders, people that could hit on both sides of the plate, people that were power hitters and girls who could move people around the bases,” McGuire said. “It was a very good group of girls and I think they were, as a group, well-rounded also in the aspect of challenging the younger girls to do more.”

Now, those younger girls will have to rise up to fill a lot of big shoes. 

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.