Sparkman senior Kaitlyn Fletcher is ready to swing into the 2024 softball season for the Lady Senators. Photo Contributed

High School Softball Preview 2024

MADISON- Each of the four local high school softball programs have a potentially magnificent chance of making rumbles within Alabama as the 2024 season gets underway. Bob Jones has six seniors, Madison Academy has one of the top pitchers in the state, James Clemens returns numerous letter winners and Sparkman has a roster of five college signees along with a new coach.

Girls softball is alive and well in the immediate area and the current season promises to be as lively and competitive as any season in recent memory. Here’s a look at each of the teams which are expected to provide a season to remember.

Bob Jones

The Bob Jones softball team is looking forward to the 2024 season with stops on its schedule which include Orange Beach on the Gulf Coast (March 14-16) and to the Bluegrass State of Kentucky for the Assumption Round Robin Tournament (March 23) in Louisville. The Lady Patriots also hope to make the trip to Oxford (May 13-14) home of the AHSAA Softball State Tournament.

“This team is looking to push themselves with good competition at these special tournaments,” said Bob Jones head coach Whitney Deaver.

The 2023 team finished 17-18 on the season, but had no seniors on its roster, which means numerous returning players for 2024, plus the addition of two new players means chemistry is at a maximum. The current lineup will include six seniors, four of whom have signed college scholarships and two other returning starters including Layna Sewell, a four-year starter in the outfield, and Carly Thomas, a three-time state champion wrestler.

The four remaining college signees set for their senior campaigns as Patriots include Eliza Tyrrell, who will play college volleyball at Montevallo, and softball signees Natalia Kenyatta (Michigan State), Charlotte Herron (Western Kentucky) and A.J. Vineski (Northwest Florida).

Bob Jones plays in Area 8 in Class 7A.

James Clemens

Despite narrowly missing out on qualifying for Class 7A Regionals last season, the 2024 James Clemens softball team is ready to bridge the gap between not making the playoffs and tackling the post-season action.

“Building on the progress of the past two years, this team is determined to secure a spot in the post-season,” said Bradley Kimbrough in his third season as head coach of the Lady Jets. “The challenging competition in our Area, featuring formidable opponents like Bob Jones and Austin, adds an extra layer of difficulty to their journey.”

The Lady Jets are well equipped to face the challenges and achieve their goal of making the playoffs with seven returning letter winners including two outstanding performers at the plate in Makenna King and Farrah Payton.

The Jets were 13-24 a season ago, but with the talents of two newcomers this year, Christianne Delaney and Riley Fisher, are poised for an exciting and competitive season in 2024.

Madison Academy

To call the Madison Academy softball team young is an understatement. Losing one senior off last season’s team and having just one upperclassman on the 2024 squad, the Lady Mustangs look to use what experience the roster of players have in pursuing a spot in the post-season playoffs and play for the Class 3A State Championship.

“The key this year will be building on the experience we received as we played 45 games last year and being able to take the next step to state,” said Dean Clark head coach of Madison Academy after a 35-10 record in 2023.

The Lady Mustangs will start their trek to state behind Cataryna Schreiber a Class 3A All-State selection at pitcher as a freshman after leading the classification in strikeouts. Clark is working overtime on developing depth at the pitcher position to support Schreiber as he feels he has some good options in that area.

Clark has the luxury of what he believes is a strong returning middle of the defense starting with eighth grader Breely Kilpatrick at catcher followed by junior second baseman Emily Burgreen, freshman shortstop Memphis Houston and lone senior Ryan McBride in centerfield.

The defense should be solid with eight starters and four others who saw plenty of action off last year’s Area Champion team.

Clark is in his 25th season on the staff of the program and 2024 marks his one decade as head coach and each year looks to newcomers to boost his squad as last season he had 13 players to choose from while this year he has what could be regarded as a “pot of gold” with 19 players suiting up to face competition to defend their fourth straight Area 15 Championship.

“To make that next stop to state we must start with developing our team chemistry and everyone being on the same page working toward that goal together,” said Clark.

Sparkman

The Lady Senators of Sparkman enter the 2024 season in a peculiar position. The team is coming off a third-place finish in the State Tournament in 2023 behind the Class 7A Coach of the Year Lindsey Vanover. Just days after the marvelous finish, second-year head coach Vanover resigned her position with Sparkman and took a similar position with Decatur High.

Now, with the 2024 season underway, Sparkman has looked to first-year head coach Macie Morris to continue the move back to the post-season playoffs. Morris, married to former professional baseball player Hunter Morris, knows the passionate ways of the support for the softball program at the Class 7A school as she is a 2008 graduate of the school and played on the school’s team which won the 2006 AHSAA State Championship taking the title with a 4-3 victory over Vestavia Hills in the title game.

“We have a wealth of talent and experience as all of our talented players are vital to our success,” said Morris. “We have girls sitting the bench that would be in a starting lineup for many other Class 7A programs.”

Nine seniors, seven juniors, 10 sophomores and eight freshmen make up the roster for Sparkman as this group will attempt to defend its Area and Regional Championships with a 37-14 team record. Five of the senior players have signed letters of intent to play college softball and are looked at of being team leaders on and off the field. Morris has looked intently at the enormous talent that makes up the sophomore and freshman players and expects those players to see playing time on varsity.

Senior infielder Kailey Hardin is the 2024 Bryant-Jordan Achievement Award recipient for the school and is expected to head up the infield play for the Lady Senators. The roster features several multi-sport athletes who participate in other school sports including volleyball, flag football, basketball and bowling as Morris has already seen those athlete’s great athleticism and competitive spirit. Morris added, “There’s a lot of experience on the field and in the dugout as this team had a strong finish last season and we have some unfinished business to tend to.”

Another facet of the 2024 squad for Sparkman is the fact Morris understands many of her players are not only elite athletes, but strong academic students as well. She added, “One of our seniors is a member of the 30-plus ACT club and many others carry 4.0-plus grade point averages.”

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Digital Version

Digital version of The Madison Record – April 17, 2024

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