Leave it to the kids to lift up our community. From Hurricane Sally to softball-sized hail, we've been battered to say the least over the past eight months. All of that extra weight got much lighter thanks to a group of young, determined and resilient student-athletes who took the AHSAA 2A State Softball Championship tournament by storm this week. They are shining stars for our city.
As AL.com put it, David beat Goliath. Pisgah is a 10-time state championship school while Orange Beach High School fielded its first-year varsity team with a phenomenal group and phenomenally young - two 11th-graders, one 10th-grader and the rest seventh- through ninth-graders.
In dramatic fashion, down 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning, seventh-grader Ava Hodo notched a walk-off, two-run home run as the Makos stunned Pisgah 3-2 to claim the Class 2A state title at Signature Field at Choccolocco Park in Oxford on Thursday. During the tournament, the Lady Makos also avenged a regional loss to 2A defending champion G.W. Long by putting on a clinic, winning 7-1.
Eighth-grader Justine Henderson got the win on the mound, holding off a powerful Pisgah team. Leading up to the championship, Henderson pitched three complete games beating Sumiton Christian 6-4, Spring Garden 3-1 and G.W. Long 7-1.
To welcome home these outstanding players and to congratulate them, the community turned out Friday afternoon as the police-escorted bus pulled into the Orange Beach Sportsplex.
Speaking at the welcome-home rally, Principal Dr. Robbie Smith said, "Just so you know, this group went undefeated. They beat the defending 2A State Champion and the defending 3A State Champion to bring home the blue map to Orange Beach, Alabama. It doesn't get any better than that. It doesn't get any better than that. So you all know that this school wouldn’t be possible without Mayor Kennon and our City Council in a perfect combination with Baldwin County schools. We have been able to accomplish what no one else has before. We have won a state title as a first-year program; never happened before."
Mayor Tony Kennon said the softball team has now set the standard for Mako Athletics.
"But it also sets the standard for academics and our arts," he said. "It’s not just sports, it’s excellence from top to bottom, side to side throughout our school. This is also a testament to our community so thank y’all so much."
Our year in Orange Beach is beginning to shine much brighter, just like the futures of these talented young women.
(By Marc D. Anderson, City of Orange Beach)
Read all about the team's historic win: