Saks’ confidence rising as season rolls along
by Brandon Miller
bmiller@annistonstar.com
Mar 19, 2013 | 6152 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Saks softball coach Michelle Lively talks to her team during practice Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Bill Wilson)
Saks softball coach Michelle Lively talks to her team during practice Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Bill Wilson)
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SAKS — After winning the Class 3A state championship last year, the Saks softball team began this season slowly.

But after a 2-4 start, Saks has won eight straight, overcoming the combination of youth and a strong schedule that caused the Lady Wildcats to struggle early.

“The first two games were really strong teams,” first-year coach Michelle Lively said. “I thought (Cleburne County) was a good team and so was Southside (Gadsden), and we were nervous. We had girls out here that were normally playing JV and they were in new positions.

“It was a new atmosphere.”

The new atmosphere became a comfortable one at the Lincoln Invitational during the second weekend of March. In pool play, Saks defeated Class 6A Pell City and Class 4A St. Clair County on Friday. Before Saturday’s games, Lively decided to move Daisey Cornejo from first back to her normal position, right field, and call up eighth-grader Paulina Garcia from the junior varsity team.

With the new lineup in place, the Lady Wildcats defeated Pell City, Class 1A Collinsville twice, and Class 4A Clay Central in the championship Saturday.

“As the season goes on, we’re gaining our confidence,” Raegan Nunez said. “Confidence is really all we need.”

That confidence, demeanor and swagger is what has guided this Saks team to the win streak.

“(Tiffany) Springer walked up to me the other day and said we were on a roll,” said ace pitcher Taylor West, a Jacksonville State commitment. “I said, ‘Yeah, I guess we are.’”

Saks’ most recent win, a 13-2 decision against Weaver, gave the Lady Wildcats a 1-0 record in Class 3A, Area 8 play, a small step toward getting back to the state tournament.

Lively said that to get back, however, the Lady Wildcats will need to keep building their confidence and also hit the ball better.

Only four batters have a batting average of .250 or better. Tayler Teague is hitting .250, while West is at .400. Springer is sitting at .313, and Kelly Kilgore is hitting .600 in two games back from an injury. The average for the team is .201.

On the mound, West has been dominant.

In 92 innings, she has allowed 34 hits and 11 earned runs. With a 0.84 ERA and 171 strikeouts under her belt, she has allowed an opponents’ batting average of .096.

All things considered, Lively said she thinks Saks can return to Montgomery to defend its title.

“I think they’re more determined this year, but that comes with having a target on your back as the state champs,” she said. “But they’re not just more determined on the field. Even in seventh-period workouts, they’re always talking about what they need to do to get better.”

Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.

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