PELL CITY -- Pell City High School’s softball team will travel to Tuscaloosa for the Class 6A West Central Regional Tournament at Bowers Park on Thursday.
The Lady Panthers reached regionals with a 13-12 victory over Pinson Valley to claim the 6A, Area 12 title.
“We’re very thankful for this opportunity to represent our school and community in this,” Pell City head coach Terry Isbell said. “This is the first time we’ve went in as a top seed. That means we get to play a No. 2 in somebody else’s area. We’re very excited for that opportunity and thankful to get that opportunity.”
The victory over the Lady Indians gave the Lady Panthers their first postseason title in fastpitch softball under the area format, but it’s not the first postseason title in Pell City’s softball history. In 1996, the Lady Panthers won a sectional title in slowpitch softball and advanced to the state tournament.
For the 2019 Lady Panthers to make a similar climb to state, their journey starts against Area 9 runner-up McAdory at 10:30 a.m.
“We’ve got some information on some of the teams that they’ve played,” Isbell said. “They’ve got two pretty good pitchers. They haven’t played as many games as we have, but sometimes that could mean different things. We’re going into every game thinking they can beat us. It doesn’t matter who it is. We’ve got to perform.”
Isbell said his team has several strengths going into the tournament, and it starts with his girls’ confidence.
“Our kids really believe, even if they get behind, that they can make a comeback,” he said. “We’ve made three or four of those this year against several different teams and (won) games in the last inning. I believe one of our strengths is our pitching, and most of the time, one of our strengths is our defense.”
Despite having a younger squad, Isbell said the team rallies around its four senior leaders -- Emily Butts, Kallie Murphy, Holly Costello and Anna Smith.
“Katlyan (Dulaney) is a freshman, and she’s had a great season,” Isbell said. “The last three or four games, she’s really come on and played really good defensively. I’m really proud of her.
“It all stems from our four leaders. They’ve led us all year, and I’m really proud of them. They’re one of the reasons we’re where we’re at today is because of their leadership. We are a team of freshmen basically, but we get our guidance from our senior leaders.”
Butts is one of several arms Isbell will have in the pitching rotation for the tournament.
“Emily’s been pitching for several years at the high school level and also at a very high level in travel ball during the summer months,” Isbell said. “We’re very blessed to have her and what she brings to the circle.
“We’ve also got some young pitchers -- Kelsey Watson, who we’re very proud of, Grace Pruitt, and we have Katlyan Dulaney, who is also going to be one of our up-and-coming pitchers.
“Our No. 1, I guess you could say, is Emily Butts. She’s going to play college softball and she does a great job in the circle for us.”
Isbell said even if scattered thunderstorms in the Tuscaloosa area cause delays in the tournament, it won’t affect Pell City’s approach or preparation.
“We’ve had emails and different things, also through social media from the state about the possibly,” he said. “They’re going to do everything possible to get it in because they’re on a timed schedule.
“Next week will be (the) state (tournament), and people’s got graduations and things like that, so they’re going to do all they can to get it in. They won’t play Sunday, but they could push it back all the way to Monday or Tuesday if they have to.
“(It’s) not really (going to affect us) in softball. In softball, you may play five or six games in one day, and they’re used to that because most of our kids play travel ball. They’ve done that before.”