Photos by Kyle Parmley.
Shortstop Mary Katherine Tedder has been committed to Texas since her freshman year. Tedder is the Lady Jags’ main power source in the middle of the lineup.
Adversity can bring out the absolute worst in people and organizations.
But it can also bring out the absolute best.
Count Spain Park’s softball team as the latter.
Look back to an early-season contest against Tuscaloosa County, a Top 10 program in Class 7A last season that knocked off defending state runner-up Sparkman the weekend before.
The matchup alone was one thing, but the Lady Jags were dealing with the absence of two of their lineup regulars. You could find one of them — Auburn commit Jenna Olszewski — in the press box with a brace on her arm.
If you want to pile on, consider that they were trying to replace an all-star in the circle — MK Bonamy is now playing at Notre Dame — with a pair of freshmen, Caroline Kendrick and Kate Campbell. Right fielder Caroline Parker will also log some innings when needed.
Not to worry, though. The Lady Jags had things under control.
Mary Katherine Tedder, a “stud” in the words of Spain Park head coach C.J. Hawkins, got things started with a bang. The junior shortstop came up in the bottom of the first inning with a runner on, and with one swing of the bat made the score 2-0. Her line shot over the left-center field fence.
Leadoff hitter Kynadi Tipler came to the plate with the bases loaded in the second inning, and laced a double to the opposite field for a 4-0 Spain Park lead.
Her hit was proof that practice breeds fruit.
“I’ve been practicing, working on hitting outside (pitches) to right field,” Tipler said. “When I got that pitch, I knew I could hit it well and score those people.”
There is a good reason Tedder has been committed to the University of Texas since her freshman year, as she doubled the score in the fourth inning of that game with a grand slam.
Her laser focus at the dish allows her not to worry so much about the home run ball, but just hitting the ball as hard as she can.
“My mindset is if she throws it in here, I’m going to bust it. If she throws it in there, then I just swing as hard as I can and if it goes, it goes,” Tedder said.
Tedder attempted to give credit to everyone else for her success.
“I could never do it without my teammates for encouraging me through every pitch,” she said.
Kendrick got the start that night, and never let Tuscaloosa County see a glimpse of hope. She pitched a complete game of six innings, allowing just one run (unearned) on three hits, four walks, and two strikeouts.
Bailey Bowers finished off that game with a three-run double to give the Lady Jags an 11-1 victory.
The only run Spain Park allowed in the game? An error by Tedder allowed that one in, as she became more animated discussing a botched grounder than either of her big home runs.
Not that anyone was upset with her, but she said, “I felt so bad. I don’t even know what happened.”
Spain Park fell to Hewitt-Trussville in the regional round of the state playoffs a year ago, and the Lady Jags hope to return to the state tournament once again this season.
The hope is that the adversity faced early in the season will breed success come playoff time. For Tipler, a senior, it will have to if her dream is to be realized.
“I want to leave Spain Park saying that we won state,” she said.