Lincoln leads 4A-5A All-County Softball team
by ERICH HILKERT
Many of the 4A-5A schools in Talladega County made progress this season, but of all the teams the Lincoln Lady Bears were the last ones standing following area tournaments. They finished as runner-up in their area to Cleburne County and qualified for the North-Central Regional in Tuscaloosa, with their season reaching its conclusion following losses to St. Clair County and Alexandria.

As a result of such strong season, the Lady Golden Bears led the way for the 2013 4A-5A All-Talladega County selections. Lincoln had five players selected for the All-County team including the Daily Home Player of the Year. Meanwhile, area coaches also voted Lincoln head coach Jessica Dorough as the 4A-5A coach of the year.

“It’s just an honor to be voted coach of the year,” Dorough said. “There are several great coaches in Talladega County. I just really feel like it’s an honor to be even nominated for something like that. I just feel very honored that people thought to vote for me.”

The Daily Home Player of the Year is Lincoln’s Kierra Groce. The sophomore hit over .400 this season for the Lady Golden Bears.

“I’m very excited about the news, very excited,” Groce said. “My parents have had a big impact on me. They’ve helped me become the athlete that I am today. I just want to give thanks to them, give thanks to my coach [Dorough]. She’s helped me too. She’s helped me become a better athlete and get me ready for college. I want to also thank God. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today or be here today. I just want to thank him.”

Groce credited coach Dorough with being a superb mentor, both on and off the field. Dorough was not only Groce’s head coach but also her geometry teacher this school year.

“During class, we would talk and she would just give me a good talk,” Groce said. “She would tell me a lot of helpful things. That’s what I love about her. She’s a person you will never really see down. Even when she’s upset, she will try not to show it. She’s just one of those people who loves to help a lot. Sometimes she ends up going out of her way and does more than what you asked for. That’s what I really like about her. She’s a really good coach. She doesn’t give up. That’s one thing about Mrs. Dorough: she never gives up, whether it’s on the field, in the class. She never gives up.”

Dorough had plenty of praise for Groce.

“She’s my leadoff batter and she did very well at hitting,” Dorough said. “She hit two home runs this season. I think it was the first two that she’s ever hit, so that was pretty exciting. She pitches and she’s very good at pitching. She plays defense very well. She can play shortstop, center field, pretty much anywhere you put her she excels at. It all comes from her work ethic off the field and her mental toughness. She’s just an all-around good athlete. I don’t think she’s just a softball player; she’s an athlete. I think you could have her playing tennis and she would be good at it. She’s just an amazing athlete and I’ve only had her for a year. She actually moved over from our rival Munford, so we were happy to have her move over. She turned out to be an awesome athlete. She’s my MVP this year.”

Lincoln had Heather Proctor and Brandy Decker chosen to the first team. Proctor has signed to play for Central Alabama Community College next season, while Decker will play for Talladega College.

“She’s not just a pitcher; she’s kind of like Kierra: I put her in the outfield and she does well, she’s played second base and done well there too,” Dorough said of Proctor. “So, she’s also another where she’s just an athlete. She’s also a big reason why we excelled on the mound. She’s a competitor. Heather Proctor is very deserving of making the first team. Brandy Decker was my MVP last year and this year she was my best offensive player. She’s just somebody that you can always go to. You depend on her to get a hit or to put the ball in play or to make something happen. When she steps up to the plate, you know she’s going to get something done.”

Dalshala Carmichael and Destini Dye, also of Lincoln, were selected to the honorable mention team.

Sylacauga was two extra innings away from qualifying for regionals, but lost a gut-wrenching nine-inning game to Chilton County. With a win, the team would have made the South-Central Regionals at Troy.

The Lady Aggies fielded a younger squad this season, but head coach Olivia Harmon said the team’s relative youth is what is exciting for the team heading into next year, as all seven of the team’s All-County selections will return next season.

“They all look out for the best interest of the program,” Harmon said. “They’ve all wanted to see this program grow and to the level that it can be. They’re all extremely coachable and accountable. I can count on them to go above and beyond on and off the field, and I couldn’t be prouder of them. It’s good because they’re all returning.”

First-team selection Mollie Medine expects the team to be better next season with the team only losing one senior player.

“I’m expecting us to be a lot better than we were this year,” Medine said. “We were good this year, but I’m expecting us to be a lot better, because we’ve played together before, we’ve meshed together, so I think we’ll be pretty good.”

This was Harmon’s second year as head coach at Sylacauga. During Harmon’s tenure, Medine has a batting average of .486, an on-base percentage of .561 and 12 RBIs. Brooke Ogle had seven RBIs with a batting average of .449 and an on-base percentage of .548 this season. Lacey Sherbert averaged eight RBIs with a batting average of .397 and an on-base percentage of .505. Baylee Poore averaged eight RBIs with a batting average of .438 and an on-base percentage of .471.

“It was a surprise, because at the first of the season everyone kind of gets used to their position, and I was new to coach Harmon this year,” said rising senior Ogle. “I swapped around positions. I was more of a utility player, but at the end of the season I finished out in left field. I was really excited to make all-county.”

Under first-year head coach Hillary Downs, Childersburg won more games (20) than they have for as long as any of the team’s members have been at the school. The team finished third in their area, just missing out on making the playoffs. The Lady Tigers had five players selected for All-County with seniors Haley Rainwater and Breanna Garrett earning first-team selections. Both players have signed to play at CACC next season. Garrett and Rainwater finished first and second respectively on the team in batting average. Garrett batted .387, while Rainwater batted .379.

“[Haley] was very solid out there,” Downs said. “I could always depend on her to kind of lead the outfield and know what’s going on and where the play is. [Breanna] actually stepped up and caught for us a couple of games also. She’s a very versatile player, very team-oriented, Haley and Breanna both are. They’ll step up and do whatever you need them to do as a team player. They’ll both do well at CACC with coach (Greg) Shivers. He’s a great influence and a great coach. I think they’ve got more great things to come for them, a four school probably for both of them, hopefully a junior college state championship.”

Chelsea Mowery, Tariah Reynolds, and Jessica Parris were on the honorable mention team for Childersburg.

Mowery was pleased with the selection, although she hopes to improve next season in her second year under coach Downs.

“It wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst,” Mowery said of her season. “Having coach Downs as a coach, it was her first year, so it was kind of different. But I really enjoyed it. I really look forward to having her again next year. My goal for next year is to have a better pitching ERA.”

The Munford Lady Lions had five All-County selections. Brittany Gaither and Haley Mitchell earned first-team honors, while Carleigh Taylor, Morgan Wiley and Kelley Foster were selected to the honorable mention team.

Gaither had a solid season at the plate as she finished the season with a .400 batting average.

“We could have done better,” Gaither said of the season. “It’s just part of teamwork. Some people just didn’t have the best attitudes. I mean, it wasn’t bad. Most people expected us not to win a single game, because we were kind of young. We did better than most people expected us to.”

The Talladega Lady Tigers had three players chosen to the honorable mention team: Kacie Green, Kayla Duncan, and Kaneishia Jackson.
© 2013