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Local players make ASWA All-State

The Alabama Sports Writers Association (ASWA) recently released its list for the Super State and All-State selections for baseball and softball from 6A through AISA.

Three local players were named to these lists. Shelby Palmer and Kaitlyn Vandiver of the Tharptown Lady Wildcats were named to the 1A All-State softball team, and Craig Saint of the Phil Campbell Bobcats was named to 2A All-State baseball team.

Saint was named the 2A All-State catcher, Palmer was one of two 1A utility players named, and Vandiver was named an honorable mention for 1A first baseman.

“It was nice,” said Phil Campbell head baseball coach Jonathan Raper about Saint.

“It is good for him, our school and our young kids.

“We lost so many kids, but our young kids see that if you work hard you have a chance to get a little recognition. It’s good for our program, community and everyone involved.”

“I was so proud of them,” said Susie Sellers, Tharptown head softball coach. “Whenever I found out my husband and I were so excited. They worked so hard, and for them to get rewarded like this is great.

“This is the first time we have had a girl make the ASWA All-State list. We were extremely proud of the girls.”

Saint played baseball, football and basketball at Phil Campbell, but his time on the diamond this season may be his single greatest performance for his school.

“He meant a lot to us,” Raper said. “Offensively he led us in every category.

“He hit the ball well and had a number of RBIs. Defensively, when runners got on first base they wouldn’t just take off for second.

“They had to respect his arm. He threw a lot of people out, so some players didn’t run on us. He is a really good athlete.”

The Bobcats had a large senior class graduate after this past season, so finding someone to fill the gap for the departing senior will be difficult.

“We’ll probably have to use two or three eighth graders to fill in for him,” Raper said.

“It will be hard. We’re young, and this summer we’ve played four or five kids back there.

“No one person will fill his shoes for us, it will be a combination of people.”

Sellers will not have this trouble, as both Palmer and Vandiver have two and three seasons left to go respectively in their high school careers.

“We also have all these girls coming back with them,” she said. “We have Autumn [Sutter], who to me is the best catcher in the area. She helps Shelby out tremendously.

“With these girls all coming back, the future looks bright. Knowing what these two girls can do, I have seven or eight more girls that are just as good as they are.

“They just weren’t in a position to stand out like Shelby and Kaitlyn.”

Palmer has played a large part in the success the Lady Wildcats have had over the past two seasons.

“She is our pitcher,” Sellers said. “She struck out 337 batters and had an ERA of 2.1. Her batting average was over .450.

“Needless to say she was the most valuable player on the team this year. She earned that outright, and it was her hard work that got her there.

“She pitches well. I think she pitched five no-hitters and two perfect games. She had several games where she allowed under three hits, and that’s hard to do.

“You have to give part of that credit to her defense, because she has a solid defense behind her.”

Vandiver has been a solid first baseman for the Lady Wildcats as well as a solid hitter at that plate.

“She is an awesome player to have on your team,” Sellers said. “She was our clutch player this year.

“If we needed a big hit or someone to put the ball in play, she was it. I was very confident when she stepped up to the plate.

“She only struck out four times all season; that’s good. Her batting average was almost .400 at the end of the year.

“You knew she was going to make something happen. She wasn’t going to get up there and strike out.

“She had four home runs, and she worked hard all year. She started out batting sixth in the lineup, and that was motivation enough for her because she started working and killing the ball. I’m proud of her.”