Currently at 9-25, his preseason prognosis has proven to be spot on.
However, if Thursday’s showing in the annual Calhoun County tournament is any indication, seventh-ranked Pleasant Valley could be peaking at just the right time.
The Class 2A Lady Raiders, seeded sixth, opened the tournament at Woodland Park with an impressive 8-0 win against eleventh-seeded Weaver. In the second round, they fell 18-0 to third-seeded Alexandria, ranked No. 7 in the state in Class 4A in the most recent Alabama Sports Writer Association poll.
Bryant noted the progress his young team has made following its play Thursday, and his comments weren’t run-of-the-mill rhetoric from a coach trying to put a positive spin on things.
Consider the week they’ve already had: Tuesday — a 10-2 win against West End, the same team which beat them 16-0 earlier in the season; Monday — a 3-2 win against Sand Rock, another team that downed Pleasant Valley handily in a previous meeting. They even played Class 6A Pell City tough in a 1-0 loss.
“We just had to play,” Bryant said. “We had a lot of youth and inexperience. We’ve got a lot of athletic ability and a lot of potential, we just had to play games to get that experience and mature a little bit.
“It’s been kind of bumpy to get to where we’re at but they’re starting to mature.”
The Lady Raiders face Ohatchee today at 4:30 p.m. for an opportunity to stay alive in the double-elimination tournament. Ohatchee, seeded ninth, was defeated 6-2 by eighth-seeded Wellborn in its opening round matchup.
Bryant said there wasn’t any particular turning point, but he saw the glimpses of his girls’ potential in kinetic flashes throughout the season. Now, they’re beginning to take those moments and sustain them across whole innings and turn those innings into games.
Thursday’s win against Weaver was a prime example.
Pleasant Valley controlled the action, but in the fourth the Lady Bearcats were still within striking distance, 3-0. However, the Lady Raiders put together five runs in the bottom half of the inning to distance themselves from their opposition, seal the victory and advance to the second round.
“We just stayed up,” Lewis said. “We continued to talk to each other about pitches.”
Christa Lynn earned the win for the Lady Raiders. She gave up two hits, no walks and struck out four in five innings of work.
Savannah Spaulding, who took the loss against Alexandria, was 2-for-2 against Weaver with two runs batted in and a pair of runs scored. Kara Perry went 2-for-3 and drove in two runs. Megan Strickland was 2-for-3 with an RBI and Bailey Turner was 2-for-3 with a run and a stolen base.
Weaver faces No. 13 Anniston in an elimination game today at 4:30 p.m. In their first game, the Lady Bulldogs were defeated 17-1 by fourth-seeded Oxford.
With experience like it gained both in victory and defeat Thursday, Pleasant Valley is learning to persevere. Currently, the Raiders are without freshman Anna Craven, their ace pitcher and leadoff hitter who’s out with a knee injury.
“We’re a lot better than we were at the beginning of the season,” freshman Tiffany Williams said. “We’re starting to click more as a team.”
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.