On the Mark
By D. Mark Mitchell
Opelika’s Varsity softball team ended its season with two losses in the area tournament last weekend at West Ridge. The Lady Bulldogs earned the right to host the tournament by winning the regular season area title. Despite the home field advantage, OHS managed to only beat Russell County (15-0) in the first game, before losing two straight (Eufaula 13-0 and Valley 2-1).
OHS dominated Russell County, 15-0, in game one. Daysia Jones earned the win in the circle, pitching four innings of shutout softball, allowing just one hit. Offensively, Opelika recorded nine hits including two apiece from Nylen Thomas and Libby Gaberlavage. McKay Yountz, Sanai Stringer, Jones, Ava Parker and KD Lee added hits.
Game two was a different story. The No. 2 seeded Eufaula shutdown OHS, 13-0, behind solid pitching and timely hitting. EHS pitcher Jan Puckett pitched five innings, allowing no hits while striking out seven batters. The Tigers racked up nine hits and made zero errors in the win.
Opelika then lost to Valley in the elimination game, 1-2. The game turned into a pitching dual between Opelika’s Yountz and Valley’s Kaylin Green. Green earned the win by throwing seven innings, allowing just four hits and striking out 10 OHS batters. Yountz took the loss despite allowing only two hits and striking out nine Ram batters.
Valley scored a run in the first and the bottom of the seventh inning to win. Opelika managed only one run, coming in the top of the third inning.
The loss ended the season for OHS and first year head coach Randy Belyue. Given time, coach Belyue will improve Opelika’s softball program. The numbers in recreation softball have declined over the years, which has a direct effect on the varsity team. More girls playing translates to more players on the JV and Varsity. It is time for OCS to make a commitment to Lady Bulldog softball. Having support from all levels is important and must happen for the program to improve. Coach Belyue needs time to improve the program, like he did in Wetumpka, where the Indians won a state championship under his leadership.
OHS started spring practice last week at Bulldog Stadium. Head coach Erik Speakman, appearing on the “On the Mark” radio show on FOX Sports the Game, talked about his goals for spring training. Speakman said replacing the offensive line, quarterback and running back would be crucial. Currently, four student-athletes are competing to start at quarterback while others try to win the other starting jobs that are on the line – running backs and defensive players.
Coach Speakman and OHS end spring practice Friday with a 6 p.m. scrimmage at Bulldog Stadium. Fans can attend the scrimmage by paying $5 at the gate.
Opelika’s 2021 schedule starts Aug. 20 at Bulldog Stadium against Callaway. Opelika will host Auburn, Aug. 27, go to Lanier, Sept. 3, host Eufaula, Sept. 10, travel to Carver in Crampton Bowl, Sept. 17, travel to Central, Sept. 24, go to Russell County, Oct. 1, host Lee at Bulldog Stadium, Oct. 8, host Valley at Bulldog Stadium, Oct. 15 and finish at Park Crossing on Oct. 22.
Coach Speakman announced a staff change this week. Tommy Traylor will move from ninth grade head coach to varsity assistant coach, in charge of “S” Backs and Kickers. S-Back is the same as fullback.
A ninth grade head coach will be named in the summer.
Opelika’s Dixie Youth Baseball league is in the final stages of the regular season. The following are league standings.
D. Mark Mitchell is the Sports Director at iHeartMedia, host of “On the Mark” on Fox Sports The Game 910-1310, Co-Chair of the Auburn-Opelika Sports Council, Chairman of the Super 7 and Dixie Boys Baseball State Director.