Wildcats prepare to defend softball state title

File / The Herald

Alexis Walls provides a good No. 2 option in the circle for the Wildcats behind ace Mary Michael Burnham.

After a strong regular season, the Edgewood softball team has primed itself for another run at the state championship. The Wildcats won the title last season in AISA-AAA but have moved down a classification and will have a new group of teams to go through this season but coach Mark Segrest believes his team is ready for the challenge.

“To this point, we’ve had a great season,” Segrest said. “We’ve played well enough and it has helped prepare us for this. I feel good about where we’re at.”

Edgewood (38-12) has won nine of 11 games to start the month of April and were ranked No. 4 in the final set of AISA rankings from the Alabama Sports Writers Association. The Wildcats won their area and earned a bye in the first round of the region tournament to clinch a berth in next week’s state tournament.

While other teams look at Edgewood as the favorites in Class AA, Segrest knows the Wildcats’ opponents will not make things easy for them to repeat.

“There are a lot of good teams in this with some great pitching,” Segrest said. “We’re going to have to play our best to win again. We know we’ll get people’s best play because we won last year and because of how we’ve played this season.”

Edgewood is No. 4 in all of AISA but is the second highest ranked team in Class AA. Despite the Wildcats winning the area and taking four of six games in the regular season series, Autauga sits at the top of the rankings and will be one of the toughest tests for Edgewood in the postseason.

Clarke Prep, South Choctaw and Pickens Academy are all ranked in the top seven of AISA and will likely be in the final eight at the state tournament next week. Pickens Academy is led by pitcher Shelby Lowe who was named the AISA Pitcher of the Year last season and has been committed to Auburn since she was a freshman.

“Autauga is very experienced and talented so they’ll be a tough out if we run into them again,” Segrest said. “Pickens is very good and they have the No. 1 pitcher in the country in her classification. Anytime she is on the mound, it’s going to be a tough game.”

Edgewood has strengths of its own in the circle with a good one-two punch led by Mary Michael Burnham. She has nine shutouts this season including two no-hitters and a five-inning perfect game.

“Mary Michael has had a phenomenal year,” Segrest said. “We also have Alexis Walls, a ninth-grader, who has been great. We have two really good pitchers that we feel good about and that’s what you want. The key is to stay in the winners’ bracket to limit those games.”

Despite the postseason beginning, Edgewood will continue to play some regular season games to make sure the players stay warm during the off days. The Wildcats had a doubleheader against Macon East on Monday and will play it again next Monday before playing Glenwood two days prior to the state tournament at Lagoon Park.

“That balancing act of wanting to be fresh but preparing yourselves for that tough competition is something we have to start thinking about,” Segrest said. “We did this same kind of schedule last year and it worked so we’re going to go with it again.”

Edgewood will begin play at 1 p.m. Thursday at Lagoon Park in Montgomery. The Wildcats will get the winner of Lowndes-Lakeside and will get two games in to determine seeding at the state tournament.