Fayetteville will take on Leroy

Fayetteville will take on Leroy on Friday at 3 p.m. in the first round of the Class 2A East Central Regional Tournament at Choccolocco Park in Oxford. 

FAYETTEVILLE -- Fayetteville High School’s softball team will compete in the Class 2A East Central Regional Tournament at Choccolocco Park in Oxford on Friday at 3 p.m.

The Lady Wolves clinched a postseason berth by defeating Thorsby 6-5 in the 2A, Area 8 Tournament on April 30. The Lady Rebels bested Fayetteville on May 1 in back-to-back games (11-8, 13-3) to take the area title.

“We spent a lot of time talking, going into the area tournament, with the girls about what their job was going into postseason play,” Fayetteville head coach Leigh Holley said. “The main job was to qualify for that regional tournament in Oxford, and they went in and did what they needed to do (April 30) to make that happen.

“Coming out a runner-up out of our area is not necessarily a bad thing. Winning the area tournament would have been just a little extra incentive, I guess, but they did their job on (April 30).

“We’re excited to go and we’re looking forward to going out and doing our job this weekend.”

Fayetteville will open against Leroy at 3 p.m.

“We know that on paper they look pretty good,” Holley said. “They’ve got a good record. At this point in the season, any team that you play is going to be a good team, so I don’t know that we’re prepping for them any different than we would anybody else that we’re going to see there.

“I think that we’re going to see a lot of good hitting and good pitching all the way around.”

One of Holley’s key assets, senior Natalie Ritchey, returned from injury against Sylacauga on April 1.

“Natalie’s definitely come along a good bit the past month,” Holley said. “She is back playing defense, and her arm looks good.

“Having her back in the batting order has been a game-changer for us. She does a really good job of getting on base, and if she gets on base in that first inning, we’re generally able to push her on through and get those runs in.”

Holley said the team has looked good going into the tournament, but she has emphasized the girls must keep their heads in the game to succeed.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about staying mentally focused and mentally healthy, making sure your own worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears,” she said. “I think our biggest goal for this week is staying on task and making sure if we go down two runs, three runs, something like that, we realize that we do have the capability to come back and win those ballgames.”

She added her girls have an advantage in that they’ve garnered a good bit of experience at the regional level and beyond despite being a young bunch.

“They’ve been to regionals every year that we’ve had them as part of the program,” Holley said. “We do have some girls that are on the team this year that were on the team two years ago that went to (the state tournament at) Montgomery. They know the amount of work that has to go in to make it deep into postseason play, and they know the types of ballgames they are up against. They’re going to be tight ballgames. They’re going to be close ballgames.

“I like what I’ve seen out of them at practice this week. They’re asking for extra reps, they’re putting in extra work, they’re a little bit more vocal about where they feel like they’re not at their best and they need that extra attention, so that’s always a good thing, especially when they feel like we’re addressing what their needs are.”

Holley said she didn’t have a specific plan for her pitching rotation in this tournament.

“Jess (Darling) has done a great job for us all season,” Holley said. “She’s been pitching for us for several years now. She’s very effective when her game is on.

“We were excited about having Hana (Green) come along as much as she did in the offseason so that we were able to use her a some more this year. She has gotten a lot of innings, gotten a little more confidence and put in extra work. I think she’s definitely going to be a big contributor for us this weekend.

“We’ve also pulled up Scarlett Nichols, who was our JV pitcher. I don’t know, you may see her some. I think we’re going to do whatever we’ve got to do to win.”

Contact Shane Dunaway via email at sdunaway@dailyhome.com or on Twitter @DailyHome_Shane.