Early loss helps Lady Tigers reach pre-season goal
Ironically, the Hartselle Lady Tigers softball team's loss in the opening round of the state softball tournament helped them reach a goal the team set before the season began.
Along with winning the state championship, the girls decided they wanted to break the school record for number of wins in one season. The 2000 state championship team held the record with 48 victories to 11 losses.
Going into the state championship tournament, Hartselle sported a 25-game winning streak, a No. 1 5A ranking and a 44-6 record. Had they won straight through to the championship in four games, a tie for most victories was the best this year's squad could hope to accomplish.
But with the loss and trip to the loser's bracket, the Lady Tigers signed on for the scenic do-or-die route and their goal showed up on the horizon.
"We accomplished every goal we set before the season, but we had to lose a game to do it," senior Anna Corum said. The Lady Tigers finished with a 50-7 record, the championship and the record.
The senior trio of Corum, Rachel McAbee and Lindsay McClanahan were all part of the 2000-championship team, but agreed this year's championship was sweeter.
"It's our senior year so that makes it special," McClanahan said. "And this year's team seems closer together than last year's team," Corum said. McAbee agreed that the victory was sweet, but "it was a lot of hard work."
After the opening round loss, the girls found themselves with their backs to the wall.
"It brought the whole team down," McAbee said. "I was down, but I realized I couldn't let it get to me because I had to be a leader."
"We realized, one more like that and we are going home," McClanahan said.
After a frank discussion of their situation, their play and their possibilities with Coach Garry Pressley, the girls had a meeting of their own.
"All year we've had meetings before the games where we get together and talk about things nobody else knows," McAbee said. "I think those meetings really helped us during the year and we had another one of those before the Benjamin Russell game," Corum said.
The Lady Tigers emerged from their pow-wow with a renewed one-game-at a time attitude.
"We felt like if we could get through Thursday night, we would be OK," McClanahan said. "Nobody has beaten us twice this year and we knew if we could get to the championship we knew we could win. We just went out and had fun."
Last year rain delays and having to play through the losers' bracket probably cost the Lady Tigers the championship.
"This year the rain was our friend," Corum said. "It took Robertsdale and Oak Mountain nine hours to play one game because of rain delays."
While the Lady Bears and the Lady Eagles battled each other and the weather, the Lady Tigers went back to their motel, rested, visited a local mall and enjoyed themselves while waiting to learn whom their next opponent would be.
During that time, the girls found omens of victory in the color blue. "We were at the mall and I got a blue gumball," Corum said. "Blue is my favorite color, but I hardly ever get a blue gumball."
They manufactured motivation out of the color blue and their team colors. "A blue trophy with our red and white uniforms makes red, white and blue, so we had to win it for America," McAbee said.
The victory was especially sweet for the senior trio's families. "Those three have been playing softball together since they were little girls," Sally Corum, Anna's mom, said.
"It's great to see them finish out this way."