Lady Eagles ready for state
Today, Pleasant Home will travel to Montgomery to prepare for the Class 1A state finals softball tournament that starts Friday.
Lady Eagles seniors Erin Byrd, Ariel Gunter, Kati Reeves and Brittany Ward have all been to the state tournament ever since they began to play on the team — six years ago.
This will be the sixth and final time these four seniors will play for “big potatoes.”
Last year, the Lady Eagles advanced to the second round of the losers’ bracket before losing to Spring Garden, 4-3. Their first game against Ragland was called due to inclement weather after the fifth inning. Ragland won that game, 13-11, after play resumed.
The Lady Eagles (31-10) ended as runner-ups in the Class 1A south regional tournament last weekend, falling to Kinston twice, 4-2 and 2-1.
The Andalusia Star-News sat down with Byrd, Gunter, Reeves and Ward to talk about the state tournament this weekend and what it means to be able to go to the finals one last time.
What is your ultimate goal going to state?
Byrd: Our ultimate goal is to win state.
Gunter: We didn’t want to be one of the first group of seniors not to make it.
Byrd: Our legacy was to make it to state and then now, it’s to win state.
Every year since they have been to state, PHS coach Jimmy Reeves gives his players a small red potato. What does that mean?
Reeves: Coach Reeves gives this speech always before we go to state. He says all we’ve done so far like regionals and regular season games are small potatoes. Now that we’re going to state, we’ve got to win state to get the big potatoes.
All: We want to get our big potatoes.
What do you, as players, need to do to be successful this weekend?
Byrd: Work as a team and to hit the ball. We’ve got to hit the ball.
Last weekend, your team narrowly won against Ariton, 4-3, at the regional tournament. What happened there?
Gunter: We just died out there.
Ward: We got scared. We thought we weren’t going to state.
Reeves: We got a big head then we realized we weren’t about to go to state.
Byrd: I think we lost focus in that game.
Reeves: We always think we’re going to pull a big win in the end no matter what we think about.
Gunter: In the sixth inning, we still weren’t up and we started panicking and we knew then we had to play ball or we were going home.
Kaitlin Brookshire hit that two-run single in the seventh inning. What were you guys feeling at that moment?
All: It was great.
Reeves: She was due one.
What makes this trip to state different than the others?
Gunter: We’re the leaders. We’re the oldest. We don’t look up to people. People look up to us this time. It’s a big responsibility.
Pleasant Home will be playing No. 1 Speake in its first game of the state finals Friday morning at 10:30 a.m. When asked what they knew about Speake, all four seniors said that the pitcher was “really good.”
Ward: Their pitcher is really good.
Reeves: We’ve all played against their pitcher before in the 10th grade. It was a little bit difficult to hit off of her then.
Byrd: Our game plan is to make contact and try our best to stay focused against Speake.
What happened against Kinston Saturday at the regional tournament where you lost 4-2 in the first game and 2-1 in the second?
Gunter: We didn’t hit well. It all fell back on the hitting.
Byrd: Our hitting was so scattered that game.
Wednesday was the final home practice for the seniors and they said they remembered being where the younger players are right now.
Gunter: You know everything comes back to you when I remember being little and stepping out here and thinking well, these girls are big and I’m about to practice with them. Now, we’re the big girls. Us four are so close. We’ve played together for so long.
After high school, Byrd will be playing softball at Faulkner University; Reeves and Ward are playing at Faulkner State; and Gunter will be at Troy University on an academic scholarship.
Byrd is the daughter of Tommy and Jennifer Byrd of Andalusia; Reeves is the daugher of Jimmy Reeves and Teresa Capps of Andalusia; Gunter is the daughter of Benji and Lisa Gunter of Andalusia; and Ward is the daughter of Randy and Lisa Ward of Andalusia.
Pleasant Home will play Speake on Friday at 10:30 a.m. at Lagoon Park in Montgomery on Field No. 6.