HANCEVILLE – Wallace State’s softball team begins its postseason quest on Friday, looking to capture a third consecutive Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) championship and the initial one under first-year coach A.J. Daugherty.
The Lions (38-9) haven’t missed a beat under Daugherty’s tutelage. They again have a first-round tournament bye and play the Southern Union-Alabama Southern winner at 2 p.m. Friday at Veterans Park in Alabaster.
Wallace State was the co-ACCC North champion with a 20-4 conference mark during the regular season, sharing the title with Shelton State. The Lions have been at the top of ACCC North for 12 straight seasons.
Wallace State is four wins away from capturing its 11th ACCC title overall and ninth in 11 seasons.
“There is a different feeling around our facility this week. I’ve been pleased with our work ethic. When we hit the park on Friday, we know we’re going to be the team people are coming after,” Daugherty said. “Our kids expect to win the tournament, and I believe our team understands that’s who Wallace State is and what we do. I hope the tradition of our program lends itself as an advantage this weekend.”
Wallace State opened conference play with 10 straight victories in mid-March and closed the regular season on a six-game winning streak.
On the mound, sophomore ace Brittany Ledbetter has been a rock for Wallace State amidst many personal setbacks. Ledbetter’s family lost all of their possessions in a house fire earlier this season in Tuscaloosa County and her father overcame cancer last season.
Nonetheless, Ledbetter, who has signed with UNA, carries a 16-8 record and a 1.71 ERA into the postseason. She has struck out 151 hitters in 139 1/3 innings.
“There’s no one tougher on our team than Brittany Ledbetter. It begins and ends with her. Despite all of the adversity she’s been through off the field, she comes to work every day with a smile on her face and a genuine desire to improve and improve those around her,” Daugherty said.
Ledbetter has also contributed at the plate, hitting .324 with three homers and 34 RBIs.
Madison Grant has also pitched significant innings for Wallace State, compiling an 8-4 record and 3.71 ERA in 71 1/3 innings. Savannah Bolton is 7-0 with 4.09 ERA in 75 1/3 innings.
At the plate, Wallace State is hitting .328 as a group with 45 homers.
Sophomore Taylor Beshears, a NJCAA 3rd-team All-American as a freshman, has continued her stellar work after a record-breaking freshman campaign.
Beshears sports a team-high .417 average with 13 homers and 34 RBIs.
Freshman Charlee West is hitting at a .403 clip with 10 homers and 38 RBIs, and sophomore Amber Hammonds has a .381 average with 13 home runs and a team-high 40 RBIs.
Daugherty has been impressed all season with the team’s sophomore leadership.
“Nothing distracts this group. Their drive and determination to win and represent the name across their chest is awesome. It’s something that was already ingrained here and is expected all across campus. These sophomores have overcome the obstacles of adjusting to a first-year coaching staff and many other things in their careers here,” Daugherty said. “This may not be the most talented team to win 20 conference games, but they refuse to lose. Even our sophomores who aren’t regular contributors find a way to help us win. That’s a mark of a winning program.”
The three-day tournament concludes Sunday with the championship game set for 1 p.m. The winner advances to the NJCAA Division I softball championship at St. George, Utah from May 17-20.
For more information about Wallace State athletics, visit www.athletics.wallacestate.edu.
Image: Brittany Ledbetter