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Segrest (left) and Love
Photos by Kyle Thornton

Area tilt for top spot this week

By Michael Butler

Two of the state's top softball programs over the past handful of seasons are cross-county rivals. Tallassee and Elmore County are also area foes this season. The two, while just 15 minutes apart, have been in different areas since the Panthers' move to Class 5A in 2020.

Mark Segrest took over in Eclectic that same year after winning two state AISA titles at Edgewood Academy. Pat Love was named head coach at Tallassee in 2017.

Love has now surpassed 200 victories in his six-plus seasons at THS. Segrest has eclipsed 100 wins in his three-plus seasons at ECHS.

The programs meet on Tuesday, April 4 in Tallassee. The varsity game will follow the JV game that begins at 4:30.

"It's going to be a big game. It should be a packed house," Love said. "It's going to be who manages the emotions of the game and who makes the least mistakes."

Fellow seniors and friends Abbie Davis (left) and Anna Catherine Segrest

Elmore County won the first game 5-1 in Eclectic back in March. Elmore County is 22-11-1 and 3-0 in area play. The Tigers are 13-10 and 3-1.

"This is a big area matchup for both teams," said Segrest. "As usual, there will be a lot of people on the other side that are very important to me and my family. There have been a lot of great players on the field during this rivalry and I'm proud that Pat and I have had a hand in the development of those players. Everyone knows we are friends and Pat has done an outstanding job of building that program."

Love is quick to return the compliment.

"Mark and I are good buddies," he said. "We've played them several times over the last several years, and each time it's close."

Elmore County has won the last four meetings in the series.

"Even though we've won the last several, the games are always close and can go either way. It'll be no different this time," Segrest added. "His teams are always hard to beat which is a sign of a great coach. I really wish we were in different classifications like the Covid year when I believe we would have won 4A and they would have won 5A. It is what it is though and I know both teams will compete and make the communities proud."

In 2020, Tallassee ended the shortened season at No. 1 in 5A. Elmore County was atop the 4A poll. Both teams are ranked in ASWA Class 5A Poll currently. The Panthers are No. 4. Tallassee is No. 7.

Determination of who reaches the post-season will come in the area tournament. The host of that tournament comes down to who wins the regular season area championship.

"If we win today and then win out - and if they win out - it would be a coin flip at the end of it," Love concluded.

THS Pat Love Era (2017-23)
2023: 13-10
2022: 29-15 (Reached Regional)
2021: 34-13-4 (Reached State)
2020: 15-1 (*Covid Year - No Post-Season)
2019: 44-9 (Reached Regional)
2018: 32-15 (Reached Regional)
2017: 25-17
Total: 202-80-4 (71%)

ECHS Mark Segrest Era (2020-23)
2023: 22-11-1
2022: 37-14-1 (Reached State)
2021: 43-15 (Reached State)
2020: 16-3 (*Covid Year - No Post-Season)
Total: 118-43-2 (73%)

*THS Varsity/JV Schedules