The Lady Wildcats have built an impressive 19-9 record and are ranked eighth in the state in the most recent Alabama Sports Writers Association poll, released today.
When they take the field against the winner of the matchup between tenth-seeded Jacksonville Christian and seventh-seeded Jacksonville tonight at 7:30 p.m., they’ll have their full complement of players at their disposal.
It’s something they haven’t had all year. They’ve endured injuries from both starters and part-time starters alike but have healed up at just the right time.
“Each day, they’re getting a little better and a little bit closer to being back in playing shape,” Saks coach Mike Tucker said.
Rebecca Bowen, the Lady Wildcats starter at catcher the past three seasons, went down with a strained ligament under her big toe after one game. It’s an injury more commonly found among football players referred to “turf toe”.
The senior all-county selection missed more than 20 games. She returned to the lineup when the Lady Wildcats played in a tournament in Gulf Shores over spring break. And while she’s not quite 100 percent, according to Tucker, she’s more than holding her own with a .375 batting average.
Bowen said it was initially pretty rough, not only the physical pain of her injury but the emotional anguish of not being out on the field with her team. She was told there were no quick fixes. It simply had to heal over time. Playing pain-free simply wasn’t an option.
“I’m feeling much better,” she said. “The more I play the better it gets.”
Brooke Gruber suffered a broken ankle in a tournament at Cleburne County on February 25th. Tucker said, initially, it was thought to be no worse than a sprain. However, a second set of X-rays revealed otherwise after no significant healing occurred during a week in a boot cast. Kendra Prater missed about 10 days with a sprained ankle.
Kabrina Snell, one of the team’s co-captains along with Bowen, suffered a deep bruise at the Gulf Shores while sliding into a base. It wasn’t serious but it did cause the outfielder and leadoff hitter to miss six or seven games, Tucker said.
“It’s always tough on seniors,” Tucker said. “But we kept telling them that we’ve got to make sure they get well so they can be ready to play in the area tournament.”
The Wildcats biggest immediate competition both at the county tournament and later in the area tournament will come from White Plains. White Plains is ranked No. 1 in the state and will host the area tournament. White Plains has defeated Saks twice this season. White Plains downed Saks 5-4 at home on March 15th and defeated Saks again 1-0 last night.
Nonetheless, Saks likes its chances for the rest of the season.
“I think we can do it this year,” Bowen said. “With us playing injury-free, we’ve got a pretty good chance.”
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.