By Rubin E. Grant
Spain Park junior Katie Flannery might not be participating in a prestigious All-American softball game if it weren’t for her friends several years ago.
As Flannery tells it, although she began playing softball when she was 5, she also was a pretty good soccer player back then.
“I played up and I played against the boys,” she said matter-of-factly.
But one of her friends, Hannah Dorsett, decided to try out for the Birmingham Thunderbolts travel ball softball team, so Flannery decided to tag along and also try out.
“I wanted to hang with my friends,” she said.
Apparently, Flannery was a pretty good softball player, too. She earned a spot on the Thunderbolts team when she was 7 and last week traveled to Huntington, California, to play for the Birmingham Thunderbolts 04 in the Premier Girls Fastpitch Nationals.
A third baseman and shortstop, Flannery also was one of three players from Alabama selected to play in the PGF Futures All-American Game on Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
Hewitt-Trussville’s Kenleigh Cahalan, one of Flannery’s closest friends, and Fairhope’s Alea Johnson also were chosen to participate in the game.
“They actually released a list of rising juniors and seniors who could be chosen for the game,” Flannery said. “When I found out I was on the list, I was honored. Then, my dad told me I had made the team and it was incredible, especially since my best friend, Kenleigh, is also going.”
Cahalan also plays for the Thunderbolts.
Flannery left last week to attend a softball camp in California so she could show off her skills to college scouts.
“The colleges run it so they can come to see more kids,” she said. “I’m so excited.”
Flannery’s Spain Park teammate, Annabelle Widra, the state’s 2021 Miss Softball, was one of 40 selected to play in the East-West All-American game for graduated seniors. She also played for the Thunderbolts and is headed to Michigan to play in college.
“I love Annabelle,” Flannery said. “It’s so exciting that she’s going to be there, too. To have three from our organization is incredible. It shows how competitive we are.”
Although she’s thrilled about playing in the All-American game, the national tournament means more to Flannery.
“My main focus is on winning a national championship,” she said.
Flannery had a solid sophomore season for Spain Park in the spring, batting .313 with four home runs, 10 doubles and 36 runs batted in. She was selected to the 2021 All-OTM team as a third baseman.
“She’s a strong player and versatile,” Spain Park coach CJ Urse Hawkins said. “She can play anywhere for me. She has a lot of leadership skills, too, and she’s being highly recruited. I’m excited that she’s here.”
Flannery began playing softball in the Hewitt-Trussville system along with Cahalan and Dorsett before transferring to Berry Middle School in the eighth-grade and eventually joining the Spain Park varsity.
She also plays basketball for the Jaguars. As a freshman forward, she helped the Jags win the Class 7A state championship, scoring seven points in the title game against crosstown rival Hoover.
But make no mistake, softball is her first love.
“We won a state championship in basketball, but I love the sport of softball,” she said. “To me, it’s always so competitive. Since I’ve been playing with the Thunderbolts it’s a whole different level of competition. Plus, all of my best friendships are in softball. It’s the best community.”
Flannery plans to play in college but doesn’t have her sights set on any particular school.
“I’ve never had a dream school,” she said. “Around the sixth or seventh grade, I decided I wanted to play college softball. As I got better, I kind of thought I could play at the next level. Now I’m learning about the recruiting side of it.
“I have two years left in high school, so I’ve still got a lot to learn about how to play the game.”