The Warriors lost two of three games Thursday, but the team’s four seniors make up the only class in school history to advance to the state tournament four straight seasons.
Cherokee County opened with a 4-0 win over Oak Grove on Thursday but followed with losses to Haleyville 4-0 and Alabama Christian 3-0. That put Cherokee County tied for fifth in the tournament.
“Us four have come together as sisters, literally,” senior Tori Davis said. “We fight and fuss all the time, but we love each other no matter what. But we did achieve something special and we did leave something at the school — those four years of great softball. But we couldn’t do it without the rest of the team.”
Davis, Darbie Rosser, Madison Brannon and Chelsea Ray brought the Warriors (40-9) together for their third straight top-five finish. Cherokee County finished runner-up in the previous two state tournaments.
In the first game, Davis mowed batters down with 15 strikeouts, allowing only three hits, Rosser provided the clutch hit — a two-run home run in the second inning to take the lead for good.
“Coach told me to watch the ball because she was probably going to pitch a strike,” Rosser said. “I got up there and she did, so it was good there was someone on base.”
It was a pivotal win.
“We’ve been down here long enough that we know you need to win the first two,” Cherokee County coach Travis Barnes said. “Getting off to a start like that and Darbie having the big home run and Tori throwing well was big. But when we lost the second game to Haleyville, it kind of took the wind out of us. It all comes down to us hitting the ball.”
Barnes could not have been more correct. Davis followed by shutting down batters of Haleyville and later Alabama Christian, but the offense struggled.
Against Haleyville, which defeated Cherokee County for the state championship last season, the Warriors only recorded one hit. When Haleyville finally got to Davis in the sixth inning, Cherokee County had no response.
“When the momentum shifts it’s a real mental and emotional thing,” Rosser said. “When you lose a game like that it’s really hard to get back on top.”
Emotionally drained from the loss, Cherokee County had to turn around and play the top-ranked team in the final Class 4A regular-season poll two hours later. In the end, the Warriors were unable to find their groove at the plate, while Alabama Christian scored three runs.
“It’s frustrating. Everyone says it’s a game of inches and that’s what it is,” Barnes said. “The ball bounces this way or the ball bounces that way and it makes a difference. And it hasn’t gone our way all four years we’ve been down here.”
Although things didn’t go Cherokee County’s way and the seniors won’t graduate with a state championship, the legacy the four leave history making.
“It’s a blessing to be able to where we got to,” Davis said. “You have to look back on it and say, ‘My team accomplished something that not many people get to accomplish.’ We won’t remember how the season went — we’ll remember our friends. Even though we didn’t achieve the goal we wanted to, when we look back we’ll think of all the friends and big family that we made.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star