May 30, 2010 7:09:00 PM
It was Karoline Holsonback''s ambition to be the best player she could be to help the South Lamar High School softball team win games.
Holsonback realized her goal.
The freshman catcher was instrumental in helping the Lady Stallions make it to the Final Four of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class A State Tournament this season.
"I just take what God gives me," Holsonback said. "He gave me this talent and I try to do my best with it."
Holsonback realized a goal by hitting .506 to help South Lamar (37-13) set a school record for wins in a season.
It was the second-consecutive year for South Lamar to get to the Final Four, and the fourth time in five years the Lady Stallions made it to the state tournament in Tony Seals'' tenure as head coach.
"Any time you can make it to the state tournament you have had a good year," Seals said. "It''s so hard to get there. Five of the top 10 teams were in our region. I predicted the state champion would come out of the North Central Regional and it did (Ragland)."
For leading South Lamar to another successful season, Holsonback and Seals are The Commercial Dispatch West Alabama Player and Coach of the Year.
South Lamar made it to the Final Four despite going through an injury-riddled campaign. Pitchers Laken Hancock (ankle, elbow, shoulder) and Kendra Wilson (appendix) missed playing time, while Lauren Crimm (torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee) Blake Hardin (broken hand), and Taylor Maddox (broken leg) suffered season-ending injuries.
"I still think we did good for all the players that got hurt," Holsonback said. "We have good athletes on our team. We just like to go out there and do what we do best and that''s play ball."
Seals said he wasn''t surprised by the Lady Stallions'' success despite the rash of injuries.
"We were deep enough that there were kids not getting to play that were good enough to play because we had so many good players," Seals said. "They were looking for their chance, and if somebody got hurt we put them in there and they did the job."
Holsonback did her part to help the Lady Stallions make up for the injuries. In addition to her team-leading batting average, she had 17 doubles, nine triples, two home runs, 42 RBIs and her on-base percentage was .537.
Holsonback was instrumental in helping South Lamar finish runner-up in the North Central Regional in Vestavia Hills, Ala. The Lady Stallions shut out Appalachian 15-0, lost to Ragland 11-3, blanked Jefferson Christian 2-0, beat Spring Garden 3-1, edged Parrish 3-2, and lost to Ragland 12-0.
South Lamar went on to state in Montgomery, Ala., and lost to Pleasant Home 4-1, shut out Sweet Water 10-0, blanked Waterloo 1-0, and lost to Ariton 4-2.
Holsonback, who is 5-foot-9, was healthy the entire season, which enabled her to emerge as one of the main contributors.
"Karoline was our top hitter," Seals said. "She was one of our top athletes."
Seals said Holsonback was invaluable behind the plate. She threw out 14-of-23 base runners trying to steal and her fielding percentage was ..942.
Seals said it takes Holsonback 1.75 to 1.8 seconds to deliver the ball from the plate to second base in an attempt to throw out a player trying to steal. He said the average is two seconds.
"Other schools knew about her and did not try to steal," Seals said. "If they stole it was very rare. Not many balls got by her. She does a good job of blocking the ball."
Seals began to realize Holsonback had the potential to become a good player when she was a manager in the sixth grade.
"We let the managers practice with us sometimes and we realized that year she was going to be special," Seals said.
Holsonback had a special season this year and Seals is looking forward to having her three more seasons.