By JD McCarthy
For the Opelika Observer
A young Beulah softball team is ready to prove age is just a number.
The Lady Bobcats had just three seniors a season ago, and this year’s team is even younger, with a roster consisting of just two upperclassmen, both juniors, and 18 sophomores, freshmen and even some eighth graders.
“We’re going to be a young team, but they’ve been playing ball most of their lives and it’s the same sport and we just have to adjust to the speed and pitching,” said Beulah Head Coach Stan Pepper.
The 3A Lady Bobcats put their youth to the test Monday and were unable to keep pace with the larger Handley, falling 10-4 to the 4A Tigers. Abrianna Green led the offensive attack, going 2-for-4 with a home run, double and one RBI from the leadoff spot.
Both teams came out swinging to open the game, each scoring a run in their first two innings. Handley then took a commanding 5-2 lead in the bottom of the third. The Lady Bobcats didn’t go down without a fight, however, adding two more runs in the fourth to make it a one-run game. Those would be the last runs they scored though, and the Tigers added three more in the fourth to take a commanding 8-4 lead, handing Beulah their first loss of the season soon after.
While the Bobcats may be young, they are returning six starters from a season ago, and Pepper has high hopes for the pitching staff, led by junior Katie Morris and sophomore Brandy Phillips.
Pepper called himself “very fortunate” to feel comfortable putting any of his top three pitchers in the circle. Morris recently committed to West Georgia as a pitcher, and Pepper believes Phillips “may be the best all-around athlete” at Beulah.
The duo will do more than just pitch for Pepper. When Morris is in the circle, Phillips will be at shortstop. And both can play any position on the diamond, something Pepper believes helps both his team and the young ladies who are trying to play at the collegiate level.
“They are both really good athletes,” Pepper said. “They both are going to be critically important to our success this season.”
Despite their youth, Pepper likes the potential of his defense and has strong defenders at short, second and catcher. Phillips, whenever she is not pitching, will handle short. Freshman Green, who would be playing short if not for Phillips, will play second, and sophomore Savanna Clements will anchor the defense behind the plate.
Offensively, Pepper believes his team will be able to do whatever is needed to score a run, by playing small ball and relying on his team’s speed or by smashing a home run.
“We’ve got a couple of power hitters that will be sprinkled throughout the lineup, but I’ve got some girls with some speed, so we are going to play a lot of small ball,” Pepper said. “We are going to be able to play power-ball if we need to or we can play some short-ball if we need to, whatever we need to do to generate a run. Hopefully that’s what we are going to be able to do.”
Pepper knows his team is young but is excited about the potential of his players and what they are building toward.
Kyleigh Morgan may be just an eighth grader, but Pepper believes “she may be better than any of them” by the time she is a senior. This idea is fueled by the fact that her bat speed leads the team and is comparable to that of SEC players.
“We got a bright future, the next two to three years should be a really special time around here,” Pepper said.
While the future is promising, Pepper knows that is a long way off and will require lots of dedication, for this year they have a simpler but perhaps more challenging goal: avoid any COVID issues.
“Our goal this year is to just try and make it through the season without any COVID issues, that’s our number one goal,” Pepper said. “That’s really our number one goal. Just complete the season and we hope to make it to the playoffs, but we really just want to make it through the season without anyone having any COVID issues.”