One last shot

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Straughn's Payton Mitchell connects with the ball during the regional tournament last weekend. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

The Straughn High School girls have their eye on the prize.

The Lady Tigers will leave this afternoon for the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Class 4A State Tournament in Montgomery in the hopes to claim the “ultimate” prize — a state championship.

“It’s another opportunity for our girls to compete, and it still gives them an opportunity to reach their ultimate goal,” SHS head softball coach Ray Wilson said. “We’ve got eight seniors this year, and they understand the competition that will be there and the atmosphere that’s up there because it’s different.

“It’s unlike any other atmosphere throughout the regular season, and even in regionals,” he said. “We’re looking forward to it.”

The Lady Tigers finished as the runner-up to Alabama Christian Academy in last weekend’s South Regional Tournament in Gulf Shores, where they fell 8-2 in the finals.

As the runner-up entering the state tournament, Straughn will play the North Regional winner — Central-Florence — at 10:30 a.m. Thursday on Field No. 2 at Lagoon Park.

Straughn’s eight seniors — Kaitlynn Wiggins, Paige Caraway, Katie Beck, Tori Bracewell, Kelli Wilcox, Katy Messick, Hannah Twitty and Tiffany Taylor — even came to the realization that the state tournament is a significant event in their lives, Wilson said.

“It’s starting to hit home to them, and I think they realize that this is their last shot at it,” he said. “They want to make the most of it.”

During last year’s state tournament, the Lady Tigers averaged between four to five hits per game, which netted an early exit on the first day.

However, hitting this year has been a big “key” for Straughn’s success, Wilson said, noting his team’s batting average, which is .349.

“We’ve hit the ball a little better this year, and that’s been a big key for us,” he said. “Our pitching has been a big key for us. We’ve struggled at times defensively, and at times we hadn’t. We’ve played real well. We hope to have a good weekend, and all three of them together.”

Straughn came back from the regional tournament last weekend, had the day off on Sunday, and got right back to practice Monday afternoon, Wilson said.

To prepare for the state tournament, Wilson said the focus this week has primarily been centered on “defense” with hitting added in as well.

“We went back and went over some defensive things, and situation type defenses (Monday),” he said. “(Tuesday), we did a little bit of that, mostly hitting and pitchers will pitch.”

When asked what the team’s hopes to accomplish at the state tournament, Wilson said it’s always been the same thing the past three years they’ve made an appearance.

“Our ultimate goal is to win it,” Wilson said. “I think you’ve still got to take it one game at a time, and not get caught up in, ‘if this happens and if that happens.’

“We just need to take it one step at a time, and worry about the first game at 10:30 Thursday morning and go from there,” he said.