BY WIL CREWS
The Beauregard High School varsity softball team is reloaded in 2022. Despite losing five contributing seniors from last year’s squad, the Hornets enter this season with refreshed hopes of making it past the first round of the area tournament where they were eliminated by Tallassee last season.
To turn that dream into a reality, head coach Scott Meadows said his team has been hitting the workouts and practices hard.
“Once football season ended we started hitting the weight room five days a week,” he said. “Then we transitioned into the throwing program and continued lifting as well. We had about two- and-a-half weeks to practice before the first game. I don’t ever feel like we are ready to play but I knew all the girls were ready.”
The girls’ first test came last week when Beauregard opened the season with a 17-2 win over Valley, a contest that was mercy ruled after just three innings.
Senior Raley Thorn, who signed with Point University earlier this year, is the Hornets’ ace on the mound and started game one against Valley. The senior recorded two strikeouts and allowed zero runs to earn her first win of the season.
“She’s probably our best leader,” Meadows said.
Overall, the team this year is led by five seniors, three of whom “have been everyday starters since the ninth grade,” Meadows said.
Two of those seniors are catcher Caroline Willis and first basemen Cat Henson. Willis went 2-for-2 in the opener, adding the season’s first grand slam to her name.
“[Willis] frames the ball and blocks really well, she’s got good pop in her bat, too,” Meadows said. “Cat, she plays first base, and she’s been recovering from rotator cuff surgery, but just finished up her rehab. She’s a complete hitter.”
Destiny Cannon is another senior leader. She went 2-for-3 with a home run, double and four RBI against the Rams.
“[Destiny] took a year off but will provide some power to our lineup, some catching depth and she will play some outfield as well,” Meadows said.”
The fifth and final senior is Madison Champion, who has “good pop in her bat and is a good base runner and a solid outfielder,” according to Meadows.
Rounding out the team is a large group of underclassmen. With that, comes growing pains, Meadows said.
“I’m fully confident in all of them that we are going to put out there,” he said. “There is going to be some growing pains for some of them but it’s going to be interesting to see how they progress through the year. That’s the main thing for us; we ain’t got to be great right now, just when we get into that area play and area tournament, we want to be peaking.”
Following the Valley game, the Hornets played in the Central Alabama Classic Tournament in Alexander City. Beauregard defeated its first opponent, Horseshoe Bend, but lost to Oakman 4-1, and Sylacauga 6-3. Thorn got her second win of the season against Horseshoe Bend; Barkley Wilson had a big hand in the win, recording two doubles and a grand slam. Against Oakman and Sylacauga, Beauregard never really got its best going. Sophomore Cooper Watson recorded the only hit against Oakman, and Raegan Brooks pitched six innings and recorded seven strikeouts in the loss. Thorn earned her first loss of the season against Sylacauga.
Going forward, Meadows said one of his biggest concerns is the inexperience of the pitching rotation behind Thorn. However, he believes there is enough pop in the lineup to support some of his pitchers.
“Our pitching staff is young,” Meadows said. “But on the flip side of that, we have some bats in the lineup — some who have the chance to be power hitters. If we can get them striving to hit line drives and grounders versus trying to outdo one another and trying to hit home runs, that’s going to be key there. And of course we have to play solid defense behind our pitching.”
Beauregard has come a long way from the days of getting run-ruled by its area opponents — something Meadows recalls as recently as few years ago. But the area is tough again in 2022. Meadows just keeps reminding his girls that its not how you start, but how you finish.
“That’s the main thing for us,” he said. “We ain’t got to be great right now, just when we get into that area play and area tournament, we want to be peaking.”