On paper, the Thompson High softball team was not the favorite to win the Gulf Coast Classic earlier this week.
Games, fortunately, are not won on paper.
“I don’t think anybody thought we’d win it, except for us,” said Thompson head coach Kevin Todd.
For three days, the Warriors made plenty of believers. They outscored four opponents, 36-7, during pool play and dispatched five quality opponents during the single-elimination bracket after that. One of the wins was a 4-1 triumph over Class 7A No. 2 ranked Spain Park, which beat the Warriors just before spring break began.
In the championship game, Thompson held off Hewitt-Trussville, 4-3, to capture the championship of the prestigious tournament.
“There’s not a better tournament, until you get to the state tournament,” said Todd. “I think that’s why you go play in it, to kind of see where we fit with (teams like) Sparkman and Spain Park, who have been to where we want to get to. You can talk all you want to and read the rankings, or whatever, but, until you beat some of those teams I don’t know if you believe you can. From a confidence standpoint, that’s why you play in it. “
Todd said the Warriors performed well in all areas during the tournament. He was especially pleased with the way the Warriors played in the field.
“We played great ball,” said Todd, whose pitching staff has been led by Bailey Whitfield. “To me, our hitting and pitching have pretty much been there all year. I just think defensively was the key for us in the tournament. We played well defensively in the tournament.”
The Warriors ability to contribute throughout the lineup was also on display. Todd used the championship game as an example. Lauren Haskins, who is one of the top hitters in the state, went 0-for-3 in the game but that didn’t slow the Warriors down. Allie Miller, Kennedy Foote and Madison Plunkett all had key hits in the final inning as the Warriors came from behind. Plunkett’s two-run single brought in the tying and go-ahead runs.
“We had girls in the 7-8-9 spots come up with key and big hits to help us win it,” Todd said. “Again 1 through 9, we’re very capable. A pitcher really has to be on to shut us down.”
The Warriors actually were coming off a tough week heading into spring break. Not only did they drop the 5-1 decision to Spain Park but that came the day after a 12-10 loss to Hoover in area play. That might have been part of the reason that the Warriors were a surprising omission from the state softball rankings despite having a 24-5 record at the time.
“If you watch us play the week before against Hoover, I wouldn’t have ranked us either,” said Todd. “We didn’t look very good. Spain Park has one of the best pitchers in the state. We lose that game, I think it was 1-1 going into the sixth inning. We did some good things against her that game. When you run into good teams, you have to be consistent and play your best or you’re going to get beat. That’s what this tournament, hopefully, will teach us. In the future we’ve got to play a complete game.”
Thompson jumps back into area play next week with a road game against Vestavia Hills on Tuesday and a home game against Tuscaloosa County on Thursday.