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Caleb Turrentine / The Herald Elmore County’s Aubrey Allen throws a pitch against Rehobeth.

Krystle Lawson lives and breathes for the softball world and over the past few years, she has been putting that passion into practice at the Elite Pitching Academy. The 2020 season was set to be a big one for Lawson and her students as she had 12 seniors ready for their final year. But when the high school season was canceled, Lawson wanted to find a way to help her students fill the void by staying hard at work.

“This is my biggest class I’ve ever had so for their senior year to be snatched like this is crazy to me,” Lawson said. “This is a special group. I think some of the seniors were just in shock at first and they may have sat back for a couple of weeks. The girls that are going into college are getting back into working though and they are preparing for college now. They know what they have to do.”

The academy is home to several of the county’s top pitchers, including Elmore County’s Aubrey Allen, Tallassee’s Sinclair Cole, Holtville’s Kennedy Bradshaw and Taylor Price and several others. Each pitcher is at a different stage in their careers but Lawson is making sure the players are ready whenever the time comes to return to the field. She has conducted many one-on-one video lessons with her students so they can stay on top of their training.

“We’re really luck that we have the technology we have in this day and age,” Lawson said. “We’re going through messenger and video chat apps so we are able to do our lessons that way. Parents are sending videos and pictures of the girls working. Pitchers can’t stop working. You take off for a month, you’re going to lose some of your stuff.”

Lawson said she has put a number of plans in place to help pitchers stay in shape and ensure they don’t lose any speed or spin in the circle. Many players now have access to Bownets which helps the pitchers get throws in without needing a catcher and Lawson has also taken some workouts from Softballa Box, an organization Lawson is an ambassador for.

Softballa Box provides training plans for any player to do from home. It provides any equipment needed and gives indoor and outdoor workouts.

“It makes it where there are no excuses,” Lawson said. “They can’t say, ‘I didn’t have weights or I didn’t have this or that.’ You can do everything and most of them you can do inside the house so you don’t have to worry about rain. I just want to make sure they’re doing something.”

Lawson said feedback has been great so far as many students are just happy to still be working.

“They have nothing to do at this point,” Lawson said. “They want to make their craft better so it’s easy to keep them focused. It’s giving them something to do. It’s weird because we may be able to get more work in now. These kids really want to get better. We are all looking for that day ready to get back on the field.”

The players who are making the jump to college next season are still working with Lawson and added the workouts to anything extra their future coaches have given them. With this group of seniors, Lawson said she is not worried about work ethic fading away but she is focused on keeping those players positive.

“It’s pretty depressing to not see them finish out their careers the way they wanted to,” Lawson said. “We are trying to make it better. We actually had Sinclair Cole’s Senior Night on Zoom the other day. Her family set up a table in their yard and friends logged on to say something. You never think you’ll have to do that for a senior but it was still nice to do that for her.”

Lawson is hoping the academy itself will have no long-term effects due to the coronavirus. Local success was expected to help the popularity of softball rise even more this year but Lawson said she expects that success to keep growing in the near future.

“This has been my best year,” Lawson said. “I’ve had more girls come in than I ever have before. We have grown and grown. I hope this doesn’t affect and we can keep thriving when this is over with. Taking away softball from these girls has made them realize they can’t take it for granted. You never know if you can get to your game next week. You have to give it your all every play and every game.” 

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.