The scorekeepers should have been just as overjoyed with their day’s work nearly complete. Instead, they grumbled drearily over their plight of having to call out unfamiliar last names for more than ten hours, and all they had to show for their work at the moment were soggy hot dogs with nacho cheese flavoring.
But not even the aforementioned agents of doom could put a damper on Fayetteville’s celebration for making a return trip to Montgomery.
“Last year was the first time in fast pitch history of softball that they made it down to the State Tournament,” head coach Chris Sherbert said. “They did it when I was in high school in slow pitch. As far as I know, that was the first time in fast pitch softball. It was great to make that accomplishment. Of course, our goal is to take it a step further. We made it back and that’s great. We’re real excited about that. We’re hoping we can go down there and represent ourselves a little bit better than we did last time.”
Senior Summer Guy believes the expressive nature of the team is merely an extension that stems from Fayetteville’s fan base.
“Parents come and support us, give us a high five, and cheer us on,” Guy said. “Coach Sherbert’s wife, she’ll cheer us on from the sidelines. Everybody’s really supportive and we support each other on the team.”
Teammate Katelyn Bierley added that Fayetteville’s fans will support them in any situation.
“I love our fans,” Bierley said. “They’re awesome. They’ll yell at anybody they need to. They really support us. They’re always here.”
The Lady Wolves stormed through the South-Central Regional at Troy, outscoring their opponents in three wins by a figure of 40-7, an average of 13-2 per game. The only hiccup was against three-time defending state champions Ragland, a team that eliminated Fayetteville last season and will also be making the trip to Montgomery this season. Last season in the state tournament, the Lady Wolves fell to Athens Bible, 3-2 and the eventual state champions Ragland, 20-0.
While Sherbert is proud of his team’s accomplishment, he feels this year they must take a step forward.
“Last year, we proved we could get there,” Sherbert said. “Now, our goal is to prove we belong there. I feel like experience is going to go a long way. Like I said, we do raise the bar every year. Next year, it’s going to be raised even higher. Having been there, they know what to expect.”
Now, more than any other time in the season, Fayetteville needs strong leadership, something coaches have stressed throughout practice this week.
Catcher Peyton Dennis said being a leader is a challenging role, but one required of her position.
“It’s very difficult sometimes, because you feel like you have to keep everybody up and you have to make everybody pepped up,” she said following the team’s win against Billingsley. “You see the whole field and so you know what’s happening. Sometimes it’s really hard, but I feel like I can do it really good. I try to encourage the girls. I’ll tell them even if they mess up, ‘You did good. You’ll get the next one.’ I try to just back them up and just be like their best friend.”
Fayetteville’s first opponent is Parrish, who finished the season ranked no. 2 in the 1A classification.
“They’ve got quality pitching, they hit the ball, solid defense,” Sherbert said. “They’re going to put a lot of pressure on us on defensively. When they do get on base, they’re going to run.”
Fayetteville coaches used drills in practice this week to prepare the team defensively.
“We’ve been doing rapid-fire drills where all three of our coaches will line up and hit to us one after another,” shortstop Hailey Haynes said. “So we have to be ready, and I think that’s going to help with our fielding the ball because it keeps us on our toes. That’s how it’s got to be in a game.”
Haynes believes the team’s success will be determined by the quality of their defensive play.
“If we don’t make the plays, we’re not going to get anywhere,” she said. “We’re going to make errors and if we make an error, one error equals one run. In the end, errors are what will beat you, not the team. As long as our pitcher is throwing what she needs to and we’re backing up our pitcher and making the plays we need, I think we’ll make it through.”
Sherbert knows his team is tough to beat when they play to their full potential.
“If we can put together a complete ballgame, there’s no doubt in my mind that we can compete with anybody,” he said. “We’ve been stressing that this week in practice.”
Fayetteville will play Parrish this morning at Lagoon Park in Montgomery with first pitch scheduled for 9 a.m.