Daily photo illustration by Gary Cosby Jr.|
Head coach Doyle Hensley and ace pitcher Kylie Black helped Speake to a 40-14 record and fourth place in the Class 1A state tournament.
1A-3A ALL-AREA SOFTBALL
Speake-ing of winning
After 4th-place finish in state tourney, Hensley, Black take Daily's 1A-3A honors
By Brooke Milam
email@example.com · 340-2460
Opponents have had four years to get used to seeing Speake High's Kylie Black on the mound. But the practice hasn't helped batters, because she just seems to keep getting better.
Just a sophomore, she's been Speake's main arm since she was in the seventh grade. And with Black on the mound this season, the Lady Bobcats were hard to stop, making it to the state tournament in Class 1A and finished fourth. Black pitched every inning of Speake's four games, 28 total in two days.
"She's one of a kind," Speake coach Doyle Hensley said. "No matter how big of a game, the pressure doesn't bother her. She wants the ball in her hands."
With Black and Hensley leading the way, the Lady Bobcats set a school record for wins after posting a 40-14 record. They won 21 of their last 25 games to top the old record of 37 wins.
They also finished runner-up in the county tournament to 4A power Lawrence County, and won the Randolph tournament over spring break.
For all that they helped Speake accomplish this year, Black is The Daily's 1A-3A player of the year, and Hensley is The Daily's 1A-3A coach of the year.
Hensley, who is in his 10th year as head coach at Speake, also received the award in 2004, when he guided the Lady Bobcats to the state tournament for the first time in fast-pitch softball.
"It's just one of those teams that I wish we had a game tomorrow," Hensley said. "I really got along well with these girls."
Hensley said the school wins record mattered plenty to his players.
"Our hitting down the stretch really came along," Hensley said. "Everybody got to hitting.
"They wanted to break that record and that was a big motivation."
Speake's rivalry with Mount Hope was a running theme throughout the season. The Lady Bobcats went 4-3 against the Lady Jackets, and both teams reached the state tournament and were put out by state runner-up Pleasant Home.
"I thought we had a great season, but we just came up a little short," Black said. "But we definitely had a great year."
Black's contributions included a 31-11 record on the mound with 14 shutouts and a 0.80 ERA.
And while Black said she realizes those statistics are impressive, she added that plenty of backup is what made the season possible.
"If it wasn't for the rest of my team, I wouldn't have as many wins as I did or the low ERA," Black said. "Most of the time I feel like if I hold their team we can win.
"I always knew if I held them that we could manufacture a run somehow. This year we hit really well and had a good offense."
Black helped her own cause by batting .358 this season, including 14 doubles, 10 triples and three home runs. She drove in 37 runs and scored 44 more.
Black said she was only one part of a powerful Speake offense.
She batted third and credited leadoff batter Revia Brown and Whitney Sparks with fueling the Lady Bobcats lineup at the top two spots in the order.
Hensley agreed that senior leadership from Brown and Sparks, both all-area selections, kept Speake's offensive fire alive.
Speake will lose the pair to graduation, but Hensley said he feels confident that the foundation is there for more success to come, including two more years with Black on the mound. Going 2-2 at the state tournament helped set a standard that Hensley said he thinks future teams can live up to.
"We're losing two great seniors, and they were the reason for a lot of our success this year," Hensley said. "Anytime you make it to the state tournament, it helps lay the groundwork for future teams."
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