By Lee Davis
There was a time when Spain Park softball wasn’t a very big deal.
“Before we got here they even gave an award if a girl just dived for a fly ball in the outfield,” Lady Jaguar coach C.J. Hawkins recalled. “We had to change that mindset from the very beginning.”
The mindset did change, and a decade later, Spain Park is one of the state’s elite softball programs. The 2016 season was no exception as the Lady Jags rolled to a 40-19 record and finished second to perennial North Alabama powerhouse Sparkman in the Class 7A Tournament at Montgomery’s Lagoon Park.
Spain Park’s epic rise is reflected by the 2016 All-Over the Mountain softball team, which was chosen by an exclusive poll of the Over the Mountain head coaches. Six Jaguars were chosen for the squad. Hawkins was chosen co-Coach of the Year, and outfielder Mary Katherine Tedder was chosen co-Player of the Year. Hawkins shares the honor with Vestavia Hills coach Lissa Walker, who guided the Lady Rebels to a surprising birth in the state tournament. Oak Mountain’s hot-hitting O’Neil Roberson shared Player of the Year honors with Tedder.
A junior, Tedder led Spain Park’s attack with a .457 batting average with 74 RBIs and 20 home runs.
Her philosophy that softball is a game of failure is a secret to her success.
“In softball, you are going to fail more often than not,” she said. “You can be a really good hitter and still fail 70 percent of the time. The key to success is how well a player can handle failure; that shows if they can help carry the team. A player can contribute more from the dugout by cheering for her teammates than someone on the field who has a bad attitude.”
Tedder already has committed to the University of Texas.
Roberson was perhaps the main catalyst in the Lady Eagles’ rise from mediocrity to an impressive 30-14 record and a trip to the regional playoffs. The junior first baseman, who had little pre-season build-up, batted .500 with a stunning 21 home runs and 70 RBIs.
“O’Neil’s presence gave us a big boost,” Oak Mountain coach Kaitlin Griffin said. “Our pitchers and defense could play with the knowledge and confidence that we were also able to score consistently.”
Five other Lady Eagle players were chosen for the team.
Roberson said aggressiveness was a prime ingredient in her success as a hitter. “I don’t really have a favorite pitch to hit – it’s just whatever comes to me,” she said. “The key to power hitting for me is to be aggressive at the plate and try not to get behind on the count.”
She already has committed to play at Mississippi State University.
Other members of the team included Amelia Moore, Linley Splawn and Rachel Walz, Briarwood; Alyssa Barnes and Devon Grace Boyd, John Carroll Catholic; Kristie Looney and Venice Sanders, Homewood; Jamie Gregg, Shelby Lowery, Abby Grace Praytor and Abby Tissier, Hoover; Allye Lott, Mountain Brook; Clara Fuller, Carmyn Greenwood, Abby Jones, Maddie Katona and Ashlee Sanders, Oak Mountain; Kate Campbell, Julianna Cross, Maddie Majors, Jenna Olszewski and Kynadi Tipler, Spain Park; Merritt Cahoon, Taylor Coe, Audrey Maloun and Jessica Perley, Vestavia Hills.
Follow the link for the All-OTM baseball team.