Byrd playing at ‘elite’ level, All-Star tonight

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Emily Byrd helped lead her Montgomery-based travel softball team, the Alabama Elite, to win the ASA’s state tournament in Dothan this weekend. | Photo courtesy of Jennifer Byrd

Pleasant Home standout pitcher Emily Byrd is about to show sports fans what small school sports can contribute as she enters the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s All-Star Sports Week as the only Class 1A player on the South’s softball team.

With this honor, the PHS rising senior has added yet another feat to her ever-growing list of achievements.

On Sunday night, her Montgomery-based travel ball team — the Alabama Elite — defeated the Birmingham Vipers 2-1 to clinch the Alabama Amateur Softball Association’s 16U state title.

After winning the state championship for the Elite, Byrd will try again tonight at 6 to help her South squad defeat the North squad.

Byrd sports a 1.09 ERA from the ASA’s state tournament. She had 14 strikeouts and got the game-winning hit over the Kraze of Florence to earn a ticket to the championship game.

Byrd and the Elite had to overcome adversity as she helped lead her team to a 5-4 win over the Kraze of Florence with the game-winning hit to send the team to the championship game.

The Alabama Elite lost to the Birmingham Vipers 7-0 in the first championship game, but bounced back to win 2-1 in the decider to win it all.

Byrd said it felt like the 2012 AHSAA state softball tournament, where the Lady Eagles finished runner up to Ragland, but “we won it this time.”

“We played really good teams this weekend,” she said. “They were as good or better than the teams we played at state. It was good competition.”

On Saturday, the Alabama Elite beat the Mobile Thrillers 1-0; defeated the Bandits of Alabaster 8-1; and then beat Mobile Express 2-0. With their wins on Saturday, the Elite qualified for the ASA National Championships, which will be held July 29-Aug. 5, in Montgomery.

Due to their runner-up finish, the Vipers also qualified for the national tournament.

In the championship game, Alabama Elite’s Jessica Gallardo got a hit, and later scored on Haleigh Lowe’s single to tie the game at 1-all.

Kendall Veach then came up, singled and reached second on a passed ball.

Hannah Guthrie’s hit sent Veach home for the game-winning run to help lift the Elite.

The Elite finished the tournament 6-1, in the winner’s bracket.

“I’m excited and ready to play,” Byrd said about tonight’s game. “I’ve played most of the summer getting ready for this.”

The All-Star Sports Week will feature football, volleyball, baseball, softball, soccer and basketball teams from across the state from July 9-13.