Talented, Ranked Warrior Softball Team Eyes Another Deep Postseason Run
Kevin Todd has been building this version of Warriors softball for some time now.
He’s kept a keen eye on the blossoming talent in the middle school ranks and moved players up when they’re ready. Close to half of his starting lineup played a varsity game before their freshman year earning a spot in regionals in 2019 and now coming in fresh off an Elite 8 appearance in 2021, Todd and his Warriors are eager to make more history this season.
The Warriors started the season red hot, winning 25 of their first 27 games en route to a no. 3 ranking in Class 7A. Despite the early success, Coach Todd knows this season will come down to how his team performs against the state’s elite competition. Thompson is currently 3-3 against the 7A Top 10.
“A lot of it is just the mental aspect of the game. We just need to play a little smarter and do in the games what we practice on,” says Todd. “To me, 90% of it is just being focused in some of our bigger games. Mentally we’ve just got to relax and let the game come to us.”
Multi-year starters dot the roster as several seniors and juniors have varsity and, more importantly, postseason experience.
“They’ve been a big part of building this program. Elenor DeBlock and Ella Pate have been starters since their freshman year, great leaders, they know what we expect of them,” said Todd. “They’ve been a key aspect to our success along with Jenna Williams. They just show up to work every day.”
Pate has been putting up numbers for years. She currently leads the Warriors in home runs and even though she projects as an outfielder at Jacksonville State, Coach Todd says she has flourished in her role at second base.
All five Warrior seniors have already committed to play at the collegiate level, but Thompson boasts a great combination of raw and experienced talent. Todd and his staff have developed a great feel on who can step up quickly to help the team.
Sophomore Dailynn Motes currently leads it off for the Warriors and even though she’s more in the vein of a two or three hole hitter, has taken on the role and achieved a lot of success in her new part on the team hitting a .495 average. Also a savvy base runner, she can be a catalyst for the offense right off the bat.
“Dailynn is probably our best overall athlete and she’s accepted the role of lead-off hitter and been a real team player,” says Todd. “She’s my best base runner and when she gets on she causes things to happen.”
Sophomore Laney Williams will also be a crucial player down the stretch for Thompson at catcher, hitting right at .500, but may be even more special on defense, throwing out over 70% of base runners the last two seasons.
“Laney is the key to our success defensively, she was all-state last year as well. You can’t coach what she has,” says Todd. “Not many people steal on her and if teams have to get two or three hits to score a run we feel good about that. Most teams don’t try to steal on us anymore.”
Freshman Olivia Tindell, who starts in center field, has also been a pleasant surprise this season by not only contributing, but leading the team in hitting with a .559 percentage.
“We brought her up toward the end of last season and she started four or five games for me,” said Todd. “She’s a great ball player, has some speed, can hit and run bases. She’s still young and learning some aspects of the game, but as far as athletic ability she’s up there with most.”
Another welcome addition has been junior Chalea Clemmons, an Auburn University commit, who is a dual threat as one of Todd’s best pitchers with a powerful presence at the plate as well.
“When you look at her you just think to yourself, ‘That’s a D1 athlete’ because of her size and build,” says Todd. “She’s been a real good addition to our team, she fit in, the girls love her and she’s added a power aspect to our team. She leads us in doubles and tied for the lead in home runs.”
Coach Todd has four different players hitting at an average of .500 or better, but the Warriors also have one of the best pitching rotations in the state. DeBlock, Clemmons and sophomore Holly Selman all bring a different style into the circle that opponents have a difficult time dealing with.
“Elenor is one of the kids we brought up as an eighth grader and she’s pretty much been our number one ever since her ninth grade season,” says Todd. “She was an all-state player in 2019 and again last year and the thing that makes her so good is she’s so smart. Doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but she’s just so smart, knows how to get batters out and competes her tail off.”
Another player Todd identified in middle school, Selman presents a problem to opponents with a change of pace that makes it hard on Thompson’s rivals to adjust.
“She’s that change up pitcher, we bring her in after Elenor or Chalea and she spins it unlike anybody we have,” says Todd. “She does what we ask her to do, goes out there and gets out and we’ve put her in some tough situations this year, but it doesn’t phase her.”
An intimidating rotation paired with an equally powerful, dangerous lineup with experience and talent coming from all directions will fuel Thompson as they prepare for the upcoming stretch run and what they hope will be a special ending in the postseason.