It has been more than two decades since the last time the Tallassee softball team appeared in the state tournament. This year, the Tigers will enter the Class 5A South Regional in Gulf Shores on Friday as one of the favorites to clinch a spot in Lagoon Park as they enter with a 41-7 record and on a seven-game winning streak.
However, Tallassee coach Pat Love said it will not be that simple.
“Everybody on this team has expectations of going to Lagoon Park,” Love said. “All records are out the window now though; that 41-7 doesn’t mean anything. It’s about what you do in this next game.”
The Tigers will open play against Faith Academy on Friday at noon in Gulf Shores. Tallassee is coming off an area championship but has been drawn against the only runner-up in the regional which has been ranked in the Alabama Sports Writers Association top 10 this season.
“They’re very good from what I hear,” Love said. “They forced Satsuma into a third game and played them close all three times. They pitch and hit really well and can play some good defense.”
Tallassee was ranked No. 3 in the final Class 5A poll but that does not make its path to the state tournament any easier. If the Tigers get by Faith on Friday, they will have to turn around quickly for a likely meeting with No. 4 Rehobeth later that night.
On the other side of the bracket, No. 9 Satsuma rounds out the ranked teams in the regional. Tallassee’s regional is one of two in 5A with at least three ranked teams but Love said the Tigers are only worried about one of those teams at the moment.
“We can only play the game that is in front of us,” Love said. “We have to focus on Faith Academy. If we play how we’re supposed to and make them beat us, I’ll feel pretty good about our chances.”
Tallassee has turned to its offense over the last few weeks for much of its success. The Tigers have put up runs all season but they have taken it up a notch since the beginning of April where they have averaged 10.9 runs per game across 18 games, going 15-3 during that span.
While Love said he expects the offense to continue to have success at the regional, he turned the team’s focus to the fundamentals in practice this week. The Tigers worked on situational hitting, making contact with two strikes and bunting drills to get ready for the weekend.“There were a few spots where we didn’t score runs when we should have in the area tournament,” Love said. “We’re still hitting the ball well but when that pressure is on, it’s going to be about who takes that extra base to secure on more run.”
While the Tigers boast one of the best offenses in the state, cold streaks at the plate happen to everyone. Tallassee will be traveling the furthest of all eight teams in the South Regional so to counter any effects of that, Love said the team will be going down a day early to get acclimated with the park and the surroundings.
Whether the offense shows up or not, the Tigers will look to ace pitcher Jordan Walters for most of the innings in the circle. Walters has a sub-2 ERA in 180 innings and is backed up by Sinclair Cole who has not taken a loss yet this season.
This year’s success has brought a lot of attention and high expectations to this Tallassee team. And Love said his team has prepared to prove it belongs.
“I think they’re ready,” Love said. “This is what you work all year for.”