“She really is a great coach,” eighth-grader and third baseman Carlee Mullinax said. “When we got down, she would boost us up and put some fire in us.
“She would bring us Nick Saban’s quotes out of his book, and we had the three Is. Individual responsibility was the main one. We always would preach about it.”
The preaching worked well enough to get Wellborn to its first state tournament berth since 2001 and first in Alabama’s fast-pitch era, and the accomplishment made Vinson the easy choice as The Anniston Star’s Calhoun County coach of the year for Class 1A-2A schools.
The young Panthers qualified second out of the North Central Regional, beating county rival Pleasant Valley before beating Lamar County in the losers’ bracket final. That put them in Montgomery as one of the final eight 2A teams.
They did it with one senior starter and one junior starter. The six eighth-graders included Mullinax, the county 1A-2A player of the year.
The expectation was the same for all.
“You had to do your job and get it done to finish strong,” Mullinax said. “If we made a mistake, we had to run. If we struck out in a game, she would lift us up, but she would still get us for it.”
Vinson just completed her fourth season as the Panthers’ head coach after coming back from a four-year hiatus as an umpire. She got Wellborn to the regional in her first season and made the breakthrough to state this past season.
“I am honored, blessed and humbled and very excited at what we were able to accomplish this year,” she said. “I am honored that I get to serve as the coach of such a wonderful group of young ladies and for our wonderful school and community.
“I am humbled that I have been blessed beyond measure with the accomplishments of this season, and I am excited for the things that we will accomplish in the future.”
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.