ABS coach steps down after loss
Andrews leads Lady Trojans to Class 1A tourney in final year
By Bradley Handwerger
MONTGOMERY — Tony Andrews stood up slowly, his sunglasses still hiding his eyes.
His Athens Bible softball team huddled nearly 50 paces beyond the outfield fence at Montgomery’s Lagoon Park, Andrews ambled several more steps past his team.
He finally removed the dark shades, exposing to the world tears that possibly began building Friday night when his team picked up its first loss in the Class 1A state softball tournament.
Though some would classify a day in which the sky was a cloudless light blue and the temperatures were comfortable and cool as near perfect, it was anything but for Andrews.
The Lady Trojans bowed out of the tournament Saturday, losing to Pleasant Home 4-3.
They lost a lot more, though. After 15 years coaching Athens Bible, Andrews let his team know he skippered his final game. “It’s just time,” Andrews said. “I’ve enjoyed it more than anything. It’s time to let somebody else do it.”
And if falling out of the state tournament wasn’t hard enough to deal with for the Lady Trojans (43-11), Andrews’ news sent the girls into sobs and tears.
Between hugging the players, Andrews removed his sunglasses, wiping away tears but not the memories.
“You can’t describe it,” Andrews said. “When you’ve been around something for 15 years, you just can’t.”
Added junior pitcher and first baseman Abbie Melvin: “It’s really hard. I’ve been with Tony since the seventh grade. He’s all I’ve known.”
Melvin took the loss from the mound, going two innings, giving up three runs on six hits.
But she almost got a no-decision because of a team awakening that came a little too late.
Melvin singled with one out in the sixth. She moved to second on Ashley Eaton’s single, then to third on Kirsten McClure’s single. Melvin finally scored on Brooke Chittam’s sacrifice fly to deep center.
After Hallie Sandberg got out Pleasant Home’s three batters in the bottom of the sixth, the Lady Trojans made a push to get back in the game.
Athens Bible’s Kerri Pender reached on an error by the Pleasant Home shortstop, then moved to second as the left fielder misplayed the same ball. Katie Eubanks followed by reaching first on an error by the second baseman, moving Pender to third.
Eubanks stole second, then Pender and Eubanks came home on a routine grounder to third by Haley Chittam.
Suddenly the game was 4-3 and Athens Bible had a chance. Melvin singled to put the tying run at first with two outs, but Ashley Eaton popped up to first base ending the game.
“We didn’t come around until the very last,” Melvin said. “We just weren’t ready to play at first.”
Said Andrews: “We just came out a little tight. Felt pressure at the beginning. As the game went along, they got more comfortable and just played great ball.”
In the end, just getting back to Montgomery a year after battling out of the losers’ bracket only to lose in the championship game was the realization of one of the team’s goals.
“They were determined from the get-go to get back down here,” Andrews said “They weren’t going to be denied. They got down here and had some tough luck.”
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