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Local softball standouts receive All-State honors

Coaching third for Tharptown, Tanna Benford got to see plenty of Kaylee Bain and Shaylee Wieting this past season on their frequent trips around the bases.

Bain, a senior centerfielder, and Wieting, a freshman second baseman, combined to form a dynamic duo at the top of a Lady Wildcat lineup that averaged just shy of seven runs a game. Between them, they accounted for 104 hits and 106 runs scored—40 percent of Tharptown’s total of 262 runs scored on the year.

“To have two hitters at the top of the lineup both batting over .400 is big,” said Benford, who led the Lady Wildcats to a 22-16 record in 2017. “They both did a great job getting on base and starting things for us. Klaudia Harris [the team’s senior three-hole hitter] had a career-high in RBIs this year, and a lot of that was because those top two were on base all the time.”

For their efforts, Bain and Wieting both earned All-State honors in Class 1A from the Alabama Sports Writers Association last week. Bain, who batted .484 in the leadoff spot with 59 hits and 51 runs scored, was a second-team selection. Wieting, who hit .433 with 45 hits and 55 runs scored in the two-hole, received honorable mention.

Bain, a fleet-footed left-handed batter, was named All-State for the third consecutive season. She received second-team honors as a sophomore in 2015 and honorable mention as a junior in 2016.

“She’s been leading off for us since I’ve been here,” Benford said on Sunday. “She does a great job getting on base, and Shaylee stepped right in there behind her and did the same thing.”

Bain put together an outstanding senior season, hitting safely in 29 of Tharptown’s 38 games. She recorded multiple hits in 20 games, including four games with three hits and three games with four hits. In a stretch of three games from April 20-25 against Colbert County, East Lawrence and Cherokee, Bain went 9-for-9 at the plate and reached base safely in 14 consecutive plate appearances.

Bain’s speed was a great asset [she stole 22 bases in 24 attempts], but she wasn’t just a slap-hitter; she finished the season with four triples and nine doubles while driving in 20 runs. She also drew 20 walks and struck out only eight times in 142 plate appearances, reaching base at a .556 clip.

Wieting, a right-handed batter, blossomed into a big-time contributor in her second full season at the varsity level, hitting safely in 26 of the Lady Wildcats’ 38 games. She recorded 15 multi-hit games, including seven in a row during one early-season stretch. Wieting demonstrated plenty of extra-base pop, finishing the year with one home run, three triples and 13 doubles. She drew 27 walks on the season while striking out just six times in 140 plate appearances and posting a .550 OBP.

“She’s just a great athlete,” Benford said of Wieting, who also drove in 30 runs and stole 28 bases in 30 attempts. “She can do anything she wants. She can play small ball, and she can hit it to the fence. She’s just a little bitty thing, but she’s got some power. And she’s aggressive on the bases, too.”

Not to mention tough, both mentally and physically. Wieting is a natural right-handed thrower, but two shoulder operations cast some doubt on her 2017 season.

The solution?

“She taught herself to throw left-handed,” Benford said. “She played some shortstop and outfield for us last year, but that wasn’t an option this year. She taught herself how to throw left-handed so she could play second base for me.”

Bain, meanwhile, continued to provide the Lady Wildcats with excellent range and a steady glove in centerfield, her home for the past several seasons.

“She’s been out there since I’ve been here,” Benford said. “She had some ninth-graders around her this year, so some of them will have to step up next year when she’s gone.”

Elsewhere in the Free Press coverage area, Colbert Heights sophomores Kylie Robinson and Emma James received All-State honors from the ASWA in Class 3A after helping the Lady Wildcats go 28-13 and reach the North Regional in Huntsville. Robinson, who batted .412 with 10 home runs and 44 RBIs, was a second-team selection at first base, while James, who hit .457 with 59 hits and 49 runs scored, earned honorable mention as a shortstop.

Robinson hit safely in 30 of Colbert Heights’ 41 games and finished with 49 hits overall. She had 10 doubles to go along with her 10 homers and also scored 28 runs while reaching base at a .457 clip. Robinson did her best work at the North Regional, where she went 8-for-15 with four home runs and nine RBIs in four games.

James excelled as the Lady Wildcats’ leadoff batter on her way to earning All-State honors for the second straight season [she was a second-team selection as a freshman in 2016]. She hit safely in 32 of 41 games this season and recorded 16 multi-hit games, including seven games with three hits and two with four hits. In a four-game stretch against Belgreen, Phil Campbell, Colbert County and Covenant Christian from March 9-16, James collected 12 hits in 13 at bats and scored 12 runs.

James packed a punch in the leadoff spot, finishing the season with three home runs, two triples, 14 doubles and 47 RBIs. She had more walks (10) than strikeouts (nine) and posted a .496 OBP.

In Class 2A, Red Bay eighth-grader Lila Blackburn received All-State honorable mention as a catcher from the ASWA. Vina junior Abby Hester was named All-State for the second consecutive season, earning honorable mention from the ASWA in Class 1A.

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