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Photo by Kyle Thornton

Tigers win area, now on to regionals

By Michael Butler

Tallassee takes the next big step in its quest for a state championship this week.

The Tigers open the Class 5A South Regional at the Gulf Shores Sportsplex on Friday, May 10 at 12 p.m. vs. Faith Academy (22-14-1). It is a double elimination eight-team bracket. The top two finishers advance to the state tournament at Lagoon Park in Montgomery.

Last weekend, Tallassee claimed the area tournament it hosted at Southside sweeping the field with wins over Beauregard (14-4), Brewbaker Tech (10-9) and Beauregard again in the title game 9-1.

Tallassee has surpassed its single-season mark for wins at 32 set by last year's squad. They enter the weekend at 41-7.

"Everybody is 0-0 now," head coach Pat Love said. "This team's really worked hard. They had goals. They got in the weight room. We've focused on the little things and made teams beat us. We have for the most part."

The Tigers will leave on Thursday for the beach, but it is strictly a business trip.

"We went to Pensacola during spring break to kind of set up for this trip," Love said. "We went 4-1 down there. We played some really good teams. We got to play in that atmosphere close to the beach. That's one thing you've got to get used to. It was a good trip."

The girls will not be in a beachfront condo but just a mile from the park. They probably won't be putting their toes in the sand.

"We're not going down to go to the beach. We're going to finish first or second and move on."

2019 Results

Photo submitted by Stephen Osborne

Last year's regional was in Troy. Tallassee went 1-2 losing two heartbreakers to Northside (4-3) and Holtville (2-1) with a 10-0 win over Handley sandwiched in.

"Last year was the first time that I've taken a team down," said Love, who is now in his third season at THS. "The girls were shocked a little bit. They've got a little more experience this time."

Weather permitting, the tournament will be played on Friday and Saturday.

"You don't want to go to the losers' bracket. You stay in the winners' bracket and you get a break. In the losers' bracket you start playing back to back to back. Down there in that heat it can be pretty tough. We're just focused on one game at a time right now. There are seven other really good teams in that regional. You play it pretty much in a 24-hour period."

Last year, Tallassee competed in Class 4A. The move up in classification in 2019 means a lack of familiarity with the teams in this regional.

"We've seen one team - Beauregard," Love noted. "We've seen nobody else play. It's kind of going to be new for us. It's fresh competition. We set our schedule up for this. I like where we're at right now."

Jordan Walters and Sinclair Cole are the Tigers' 1-2 tandem as pitchers. Walters (24-7) set the single-season record for victories and has an ERA of 1.937. Cole is 16-0 with a 2.045 ERA.

"(Jordan's) been good. She's hit her spots. She gives us a chance every time she steps on the field. Sinclair has done a really good job too. We're going to need both of them. There's going to be a lot of games in a short amount of time."

Love likes his bats too. The Tigers have a team batting average of .399 led by Chloe Baynes, who is hitting .679 and was recognized in this week's "Faces in the Crowd" in Sports Illustrated.

"One through nine, we can strike from any spot. We've got several that can go deep. We've got some really good hitters."

Tallassee has won seven straight and was ranked No. 3 in the last installment of the Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 5A poll. The Tigers are among three teams in the Gulf Shores regional in the state rankings. Rehobeth (31-7) is No. 4 and Satsuma (39-10) is No. 9.

"I like where we're at. The potential is sky high for this team and they know it. They're ready to go play."