Burch helps Lawrence Co. to 1st fast-pitch state berth
By Brooke Milam
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After watching Lawrence County High's Sallie Beth Burch from a distance for several years, first-year Lady Red Devils softball coach Don Smith said he gained a new respect for her this season.
Smith, a veteran coach of 35 years, said he knew the kind of caliber player Burch was before becoming her coach.
"She was always the toughest out we played all year long when I was coaching against her," said Smith, who coached East Lawrence before moving to Lawrence County this season.
"But after being around her every day, she's even better than I thought she was."
After leading Lawrence County in nine offensive categories, serving as a strong defensive weapon at shortstop/second base and leading the Lady Red Devils to the state tournament, Burch is The Daily's Class 4A-6A player of the year.
Burch also was named to the Alabama Sports Writers Association Super 10 team, ASWA 4A player of the year and first all-state.
As a senior, she often spoke up off the field and proved herself on the field.
"I felt like everybody looked to me on the team because I had experience and I was a senior," Burch said. "I knew I had to step up, but my teammates had to, too. And they did. It's the best year I've had in sports, period. The attitudes were great, and it was the best team I could ever ask for."
The Lady Red Devils set a school record for wins this season with a 49-17 finish and earned a berth in the state tournament for the first time in fast-pitch.
"Our team chemistry was great this year, and she was a big part of that," Smith said. "She did what it took for the team to win. She's a vocal leader, and if you're going to be a vocal leader, you've got to back it up. And she did."
Burch batted .464 this season with an on-base percentage of .581. Her 85 hits, 60 RBIs, 13 home runs and 18 doubles were all team bests. She also led the Lady Red Devils with 61 runs scored this season.
Lawrence County earned the county title and played some of the top competition in the state en route to its win total. Burch said that through it all she had one goal in mind and her motivation was what drove the Lady Red Devils.
"It was a really big deal to me to make it to the state tournament," Burch said. "I'd never made it to the state in any sport, and so that was really important to me. I'll never forget it."
A Wallace State-Hanceville signee, Burch said she has dreams of playing in the SEC in a couple of years, and Smith said that's a realistic possibility because she "maxes out her abilities."
And as impressive as Burch was this season, Smith said he thinks she still has more years of success to come.
"She plays as hard and is as fierce a competitor as I've ever seen," Smith said. "She has that fire that you don't see very often."
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