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Caleb Turrentine / The Herald Wetumpka’s Jules Thames throws a pitch against Pinson Valley.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the accomplishments of every area team’s senior class as their senior seasons were cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. It culminated in Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.’s Virtual Senior Night, which is now available online at www.thewetumpkaherald.com.

A group of five seniors were a key factor in Holtville’s ride to the state tournament in 2019 under coach Daryl Otwell so when he moved to Wetumpka, he knew how crucial a strong senior class was, especially in his first year with a new program. Despite not getting to finish the season, the seniors lived up to the standard and made a big impact on Otwell during their short time together.

“They were a lot of fun to have,” Otwell said. “They were always excited to play softball and they worked hard. A lot of people look at production on the field but they brought a lot to the locker room morale and keeping everyone together. People talk about the young talent and future of Wetumpka but you have to have a group of seniors like that to talk about what it takes to reach that success.”

Otwell said the seniors were a big part of the early success in 2020, driving the team to a 13-5 start before the season was canceled. And while the stats and victories may not be the most important thing, the five seniors made a name for themselves with their performances on the field.

Four of the team’s five seniors are now signed to play softball at the next level with Jules Thames and Markie Hicks headed to Faulkner University and Maddie Elmore signing to play at Coastal Community College. Sierra Black added to that list at the end of May, signing with Southern Union.

“Any time you have a teammate that signs to play at the next level, those girls see that,” Otwell said. “You have a lot of young kids that think they want to play at the next level but may not realize the work and commitment it takes to get there. To have four sign and the rest of the girls see how hard they worked to get there really shows them what they need to do.”

After spending two years at Macon-East, Thames signed with Faulkner before getting back on the field for Wetumpka but it did not take long to show her teammates why she was ready for the next level. She became the team’s ace in the circle, finishing with a 7-1 record and posting a 2.49 ERA. 

“When she first returned, I knew a little bit about her and knew she had really good stuff,” Otwell said. “The thing that surprised me the most was how cool and calm she was. I have coached a lot of great pitchers and she was up there with them at how she kept her composure. It was definitely great to have her back on our side.”

Hicks will be joining Thames at Faulkner next year and while she did not have the season she wanted at the plate, that did not reduce her impact.

“She’s just an anchor in the outfield,” Otwell said. “She always played great defense and she’s one of those players that you really need out there. She did so much for us that she was always going to be an everyday starter no matter how much she was struggling at the plate.”

When healthy, Elmore was a staple in Wetumpka’s lineup but she was forced to miss a lot of time during her junior season due to an injury. She bounced back to finish second on the team with 12 RBIs this year and post a .279 batting average.

“She was a big contributor for us in the lineup,” Otwell said. “She’s always a positive player and always has fun. There was never a dull moment with Maddie.”

Black did not get a chance to play much before her senior year but she certainly made the most of her opportunities when they came. She was second on the team with a .364 batting average and three stolen bases.

“She’s just an unbelievable athlete and that helps her really stand out,” Otwell said. “She struggled early in the year but she was able to turn to the short game a lot and relied a lot on her speed to have success.”

While not continuing her softball career, Emily Tucker will be continuing her education as she is attending Auburn. Despite not having the same production on the field as some of the other seniors, she still delivered leadership from her own role.

“She is just a great overall kid,” Otwell said. “She never complained and always worked hard. She may not have gotten enough playing time that she probably deserved but she kept working. A lot of coaches will remember those kids that accept  those smaller roles because that takes more commitment.” 

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.