A weekly look at Alabama state high school games last week and a look ahead to what’s on tap. It’s a piece of opinion (sort of).
Former Alabama softball stars Peyton Grantham and Alexis Osorio know it won’t be easy to bring back the Robertsdale program.
“We knew we had to take it and build it from scratch,” said Grantham, the Golden Bears ’head coach. “I think we’re both excited about that and the opportunity to make an immediate impact here.
“We knew we had to fight past expectations and rules, but we just wanted to take what we learned in Alabama and apply it to Robertsdale. The main part of that was to be good people. first, even before becoming good athletes, and unselfish teammates.
Grantham was the first to admit his team had never been a contender. However, Robertsdale is closer now than it was three years ago when Grantham and Osorio, the team’s pitching coach, took off.
Earlier this week, the Golden Bears (27-16-1) grabbed their first trip to the state softball tournament since 2007 with a 5-1 win over Saraland in the South Regional tournament at Gulf Shores.
“We felt like we were in touch with everyone there,” Grantham said. “If our kids believe we have a chance, we feel like we can play anyone. But if we’re mentally struggling or living in the past, we’re going to have a hard time. If we stay where we are on our feet now, we’re OK. i think the women proved they had a lot of heart and anger this week.
Grantham and Osorio have both proved that in their successful playing careers.
Grantham was named Class 6A Hitter of the Year twice during his high school career by Robertsdale rival Daphne. He played five years in Alabama.
Osorio, a native of Riverside, Calif., Is an All-American for Crimson Tide. He won 79 games for Alabama between 2015 and 2018 with a 1.83 ERA. He finished his career with 1,063 strikeouts.
“Perhaps the biggest key to any success we’ve had is Alexis,” Grantham said. “If you don’t have good pitching, you don’t have much. I’m a more spitfire type person. Alexis is more calm, cool and collectible so we eat each other. I also think it’s easier to get into a program which may not be as successful knowing you’ve been there and done it before.The fact that we played in Alabama and were successful probably made it easier for us to help change the perspective here.
It’s a slow process. The Golden Bears were 1-11 in Grantham’s first season before COVID closed it all out. They grew to 16-15 a year ago.
“We’ve taken some good steps,” Grantham said. “A lot of what we struggle with is the mentality that we can do well, that we can compete with other teams in the county that have a history of success. I feel like the attitude is, ‘How can this happen? We are Robertsdale. We shouldn’t have won. ‘”
Even this year has been a roller-coaster ride. The Golden Bears won 10 of their first 11 games, but collapsed in the middle of the season. In fact, they are 0-6 against Class 6A, Area 2 teams in the regular season. However, later in the year, they went 5-1 in a Tuscaloosa tournament and that seemed to bring back the Tide, which was intended to pun.
“We struggled mentally for a while,” Grantham said. “We kept pushing and pushing not how you started but how you finished. We started with a little bit of success in Tuscaloosa, and it continues.
Robertsdale finished second in Baldwin County in the area tournament to qualify for the South Regional. The Golden Bears finished second again to the Tigers at Gulf Shores, but that was enough to send them to Oxford next week.
They will open a game at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday at Choccolocco Park.
Has the new course of success changed the overall thinking of the team?
“I want to say yes,” Grantham said. “Earlier in the year, if we lost once, we finished the rest of the day. This week, we lost and, when the kids came out on the field, they said, ‘We’re not done yet. We already have it. ‘ It’s really starting to be a, ‘OK so what, not what’ attitude. ‘ If we live in the present and not in the past, we will be fine. ”
Robertsdale is still a young team. Grantham started several seniors (3) as eighth graders (also 3). The team is anchored by junior pitcher Chelisa Newsome and senior catcher Taylar Pardue. Other seniors on the team were Madison Smith and Hannah Harrison.
“We’re going to focus on the same goals we’ve had for the rest of the year next week,” Grantham said. “That’s the competition, taking one pitch, one game at a time and being present on every pitch.”
In addition to Vic Knight
Last Saturday, I posted a column about my friend, Vic Knight, who died after a long battle with cancer earlier that day. He was only 62 years old.
Vic has spent most of his life serving others, including and especially members of the media. He will be honored next month at the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s 50th annual convention with the Hall of Honor award. A celebration of life will be held for Vic next month.
I get more responses from that column than any story I’ve posted on AL.com in a long time. It’s not because of what I write or how I write it. This is because of the man Vic Knight.
Here are some friends I heard from after the column ran and posted on social media:
“He’s an amazing dude! He always treated me well during Senior Bowl Week. He NEVER gave me what I wanted, but not because he didn’t bust his butt trying. My thoughts and prayers are with you, his other friends and also his beloved family! ” – Jeff Speegle, ABC 33/40 Birmingham, Sports Anchor.
“I have known and worked with Vic for over 30 years. There is nothing better at their job than Vic Knight. He’s a pro’s pro. But as a person he surpasses that, is always happy and will always greet you with a smile and the phrase, “Hey Bud!” He is greatly missed by many. ” – Lance Crawford, former NBC 15 sports anchor.
“I met Vic in 1991 when I was in the Senior Bowl. Remained friends and, when I moved to Spanish Fort in 2009, we ended up teaching against each other in youth baseball. Vic coached his team at right way, and that allowed me to follow. — Roger Shultz, former center of Alabama.
Unmatched success of AISA
Pike Liberal Arts continued an unprecedented run of success in boys sports this week by sweeping Glenwood to win the AISA Class AAA baseball title.
This is the fourth consecutive state baseball title for Pike Liberal. It could be five in a row if not for the COVID year of 2020.
The school has now won six consecutive state championships in boys sports in football, basketball and baseball. That’s divided into back-to-back state titles in football, basketball and baseball.
Remember the name Drew Nelson. The Auburn signee pitcher scored 15 in a complete two-hitter game this week. In his last four starts, 60 of the 74 outs he has recorded via strikeout.
Thanks to freelance Troy writer Bill Rice for pointing out Pike Liberal and Nelson dominance.
Latest teaching news
Earlier in the week, Benjamin Russell football coach Aubrey Blackwell resigned and took the head coaching job at Jackson Academy in Mississippi.
Blackwell was 3-7 in his only season with the Wildcats. Prior to that, he spent six seasons as head coach at Catholic Montgomery, winning 57 games and making the playoffs five times. His last Catholic team went 12-3 and reached the Class 3A championship game.
Other current football coaching openings include Murphy, Pike Road, Park Crossing and Sidney Lanier.
The status of Vigor teaching is not yet clear. State championship coach John McKenzie was placed on administrative leave in February. The only word from Vigor or the Mobile County Public School System is that he is still on vacation.
80s quote of the week
“The one that’s been around all these years, Ray, is baseball. America is rolling like an army of steamrollers. It’s erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball marks the time. This field, this game: It’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of everything that used to be good and can change. Oh … people are coming, Ray. People are definitely coming. ” – James Earl Jones, Field of Dreams.
Thinking for the week
“Today I will sow the seeds of kindness, then wait and hope for happy growth.” – The Upper Room Devotional.
Ben Thomas is the high school sportswriter of AL.com. Follow him on twitter at @BenThomasPreps or email him at [email protected]. His weekly column is posted every Friday at AL.com.