Prime opportunity

Brooklyn Preuss and the Lady Panthers will face Spanish Fort at 10:45 a.m. today at Lagoon Park in Montgomery.

PELL CITY -- A historic season for the Pell City High School softball team continues today in the Class 6A state tournament at Lagoon Park in Montgomery.

This is the first time Pell City has advanced to state in the fastpitch era.

The Lady Panthers will take on Spanish Fort this morning at 10:45.

“We are very fortunate to have this opportunity to play for one of those blue maps,” Pell City head coach Terry Isbell said, referring to the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s state championship trophies. “You can't take that for granted because you might not have the opportunity again.

“I am very thankful for Principal Dr. (Tony) Dowdy and Superintendent Dr. (Michael) Barber for giving me this opportunity to come back to Pell City when they called me around Thanksgiving. It was only one place that I would leave my home school (Moody) for. ... It has always felt like home to me, and the people have always been good to me and my family.”

After being rained out Saturday in Tuscaloosa, the Lady Panthers returned to action Monday afternoon in West Central Regional Tournament.

The tournament was moved to Homewood for two games. The Lady Panthers needed to take both to advance, and they did so in dominant fashion.

Pell City defeated McAdory 10-4 and Homewood 8-1 to qualify for state.

“We played McAdory in the first game,” Isbell said. “Kelsey Watson, our junior pitcher, pitched a whale of a game.

“We had a bunch of hits, led by Madeline Houk, Emily Delaney, Katlyan Delaney, Evi Edwards and Brooklyn Preuss. We hit the ball all over the field.”

Isbell said his team played well defensively in the win over Homewood.

“Madeline crushed a ball to center field. She almost hit a school bus she hit it so far. She’s a freshman,” the coach said. “Our senior pitcher, Emily Butts, who is signed with the University of Mobile, pitched a heck of a game. She kept them off balance. We just kept hitting the ball and scoring runs.”

Isbell spent 19 years at Pell City before leaving for Moody six years ago.

The veteran coach is proud of the Lady Panthers for reaching state, but he doesn’t plan on ranking this team above any of the others that he has coached in the past.

“We have always had good teams and won a bunch of games,” Isbell said. “We were always knocking on that door to get to that level.

“This group is the first to win multiple games in the regional tournament. I am not going to get into this is the best team in school history because it wouldn't be fair to these girls or the girls that played here before. They have done a lot of stuff that have not been done before, and we are very proud of them.”

Butts is elated with how the Lady Panthers overcame a coaching chance before the season but still managed to make the state. Butts credits the team’s chemistry as a factor in its success.

“It is a big deal because this is the first time that we have advanced this far,” Butts said. “No other team has gone this far at Pell City.

“I think it is cool because we had to deal with a lot of adversity with the coaching changes and stuff like that. Our teammates have really stepped up and played behind us. They have picked us up.

“It is really good because we don’t have a whole lot of drama. We love playing for each other, with each other and playing for our coaches. I think that’s why we have we have been able to get this far.”

Butts and the seniors will have a chance to accomplish their ultimate goal by winning  a state championship. Step 1 would be a win over Spanish Fort.

“We really don’t know much about them,” Butts said. “I don’t think our group has played them. I know a few people that have played them, and they have given us what they are about. They are a good ream. Their record is about the same as us. They have a played a bunch of good competition. I think if we go in and do what we are supposed to do, it will be a good game.”