No team ran the marathon that was the AHSAA Class 3A State Softball Tournament better than the Plainview Bears.
And they have a state championship trophy to show for it.
“These girls saw the drive in our previous teams and used that to their advantage,” said Plainview head coach Jeff Brooks after the Bears faced down a grueling six-game schedule over the course of two days to claim the program’s first state title last weekend in Oxford. “They pushed and pushed and took full advantage of the opportunity.”
Last Friday, the Bears (43-8-1) began the state tournament just after 11 a.m. with a scoreless five-inning grind against Oakman. Kadie Brooks scored the game’s lone run when Halle Brown doubled to center field with two outs in play in the bottom of the sixth inning. Lily Boswell threw 12 strikeouts and allowed just one hit in the 1-0 victory.
At 2:40 p.m., Plainview played Piedmont and held off a late five-run rally in the sixth inning to capture a 10-7 win. Boswell and Tessa Word, who was named the MVP of the 3A tournament, combined to throw 10 strikeouts.
Advancing to play Prattville Christian Academy in the semifinal-round game of the winners bracket at 5:20 p.m., the Bears rallied with two runs in the fifth inning after being held scoreless through four frames and took a 2-1 lead. But PCA answered by scoring on an error in walk-off fashion to push Plainview into the elimination bracket.
“We took motivation from that game, motivation to beat them twice,” Word said. “It made the [championship] win even better because we had to beat them twice to get it. It made it sweeter.”
Last Saturday became another early start for the Bears after getting home late Friday night.
“We had to wake up early, go to the building and hit, and we just kept going,” Word said.
At 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Plainview faced Houston Academy in its elimination bracket contest. The offense found some early footing and the Bears led 4-1 after Mia Tidmore hit a two-run, inside-the-park home run to center field.
From there, the Bears pushed across four more runs in the third to roll to an 8-1 advantage. Word unloaded a three-run homer in the fourth to give Plainview a commanding 11-1 lead, and the team won 12-1 in five innings.
The Bears had some time to rest before their scheduled 5 p.m. appearance against PCA in the state championship round. Their break lasted longer than expected, however, as the 6A final between Springville and Hazel Green went to a decisive second game and lasted well beyond the AHSAA’s scheduled time frame.
“It’s a great facility and we were able to find a place in the shade and hang out. It wasn’t too bad,” Brooks said.
Plainview endured a two-plus-hour delay. The additional rest certainly seemed to help.
“We all made sure that we were drinking plenty of fluids and none of us were running around, doing anything crazy,” Puckett said. “We all took in the rest and made sure we were ready to play. It was the last chance we had.”
It was going to take two more wins for Plainview to claim its first state title, a tall task for any team on the brink of postseason elimination.
The Bears rose to the challenge.
In Game 1, Plainview turned a 4-3 lead into a 13-3 lead with a monstrous nine-run performance in the seventh inning. The double-digit lead proved too much for PCA to overcome and the Bears won 13-4, forcing a winner-takes-all Game 2.
As PCA began to fade near the end of the first game, the Bears continued mustering championship energy.
Plainview pulled ahead 6-0 in the third inning before erupting for seven additional runs in the fourth frame for a 13-0 advantage.
PCA put one runner on base in the top of the fifth on an error, before the Bears recorded three straight outs to seal the victory at 12:13 a.m. Sunday.
“At that point, it didn’t matter how bad you were hurting, because this is what you’ve been working for all season,” Puckett said of the late ending. “It’s so easy to lose focus and then give up one hit and [the game] spiral. ...We made sure we kept that focus so we could win.”
Playing for others:
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing an abrupt end to the 2020 season, then-seniors Kenzi Traylor, Tobi Trotter, Krimson Kidd and Avery Price had their respective high school softball careers abruptly end as well.
When the 2020 spring season was called in March, the Bears had a 12-0 record and were looking forward to big postseason possibilities.
“These girls were not only trying to win it for themselves, but also for the girls from last year’s team who had their season cut short,” Brooks said.
Now with a state championship trophy to show for their hard work, the Bears added to the positive direction the softball program is continuing to move.
The team has made five consecutive state postseason appearances and added four additional wins to its final record from that of its 39-15 mark from the 2019 season.
Big year for Big Blue:
Plainview’s softball team bringing home a state championship capped an impressive varsity sports year for the high school.
The volleyball team finished as the Class 3A state runner-up, the football team appeared in the second round of the state playoffs and the girls and boys basketball teams each reached the Elite Eight in their respective state playoff runs during the 2020-21 season.