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8 straight hits

Local girl sets state softball tournament record

Bradleigh poses with the team trophy after Blacksher won Area 1 title.

News Staff Writer

Bradleigh Stinson had no real idea when softball season began last year that she would spend some time on J.U. Blacksher School’s varsity roster as a 7th-grader. But she did.
Neither did she have any real idea after she forged her way into the starting lineup this year as an 8th-grader, that she would wind up setting a new state record. But, again, she did.
Bradleigh, now 14, became a part of Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) history when she became the first player — from any school in any classification — to ever pick up a hit in eight successive at-bats during a state tournament.
She accomplished the feat May 16-17 as the Bulldogs, who won the Area 1 title and advanced into the Class 2A championship competition, fought back from a first-game loss to win three in a row before dropping a 6-3 decision to eventual state runner-up Wicksburg.
Bradleigh is the daughter of Atmore resident and Poarch Creek Indians Attorney General Lori Stinson and the granddaughter of Atmore residents Billy Conn and Shirley Madison.
Her proud grandfather recalled the sequence of events that put his grandchild into the AHSAA record book.
“They were playing in the state tournament,” Billy Conn said. “They played the first game and lost; their second game was rained out, so they played late Tuesday night. In Bradleigh’s last at-bat, she got a hit. They played the next morning, against Thorsby, and she got three hits. Then they played Pleasant Valley, and she got three more hits.
“They played Wicksburg, and her first at-bat, she got a hit. That made eight consecutive hits. Her coach (Jon Bohannon) called the AHSAA, and they said it was a state tournament record.”
The young JUB right fielder said she didn’t celebrate after she set the new record. In fact, she didn’t even know she had done so for about a week, and then not until a teammate’s mom sent a screenshot of the state record book to Bradleigh’s mom.
“I didn’t know about it until a couple days after state, maybe a week or so,” Bradleigh said. “We were on our way back from Montgomery, from a pitching lesson for my little sister (Bailey). We stopped, and she (her mom) showed it to me. I didn’t even know there was a state record for that. I kept hitting the ball and kept getting on base, but I didn’t think about a state record.”
Billy Conn indicated that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. Or, in this case, the grand-tree.
“Actually, our 1959 team in Atmore was probably one of the best here,” he recalled. “We finished third in the state, and that was when they had no classifications. We had to play the big boys, and we had a pretty good team.”
That might be putting it mildly. Three players from that Escambia County High squad were Lou Vickery (Cardinals, Yankees), Bill Vickery (Washington Senators) and Bill Etheridge (All-SEC at Mississippi State for three years before signing with the Atlanta Braves). The Vickery brothers played several years in pro ball, while Etheridge broke his wrist during his first pro summer and never played again.
Bradleigh also plays volleyball, is captain of the JUB cheerleader squad, dances and — surprise, surprise — plays softball with Sandlot, a travel team out of north Florida. In fact, she and Bailey both play softball from early Spring into December.
Part of a JUB team that set a school record for single season wins (34), as well as an honorable mention selection for the All-Monroe County team, Bradleigh said the memorable season wouldn’t have been as memorable for her without a lot of help.
“This year was a great season, and it would not have been great without my teammates and coaches,” she said. “The fun we had on and off the field this year brought us closer together and led to a successful season. I am thankful for my coach. He always has confidence in me, and he is always pushing me and my teammates to be the best we can be. I am also thankful for my teammates, who were the best group of girls to share all of these amazing experiences with.
“Most of all, I am thankful to God. I could not have completed any of these accomplishments without Him.”
She has been playing softball almost year-round for nearly half her life.
“I started playing in 8-Under in (Native American Youth Organization) at Poarch,” she said. “After that, I played rec ball, and I tried out for the school team last year. I played JV, and Coach Bohannon brought me up to run. I got a couple of opportunities — I believe I had 10 hits last year and I got to play outfield for a couple games.”
She apparently has the grades to get into any major college, whether she continues to play softball or not. A straight-A student, she had the highest average among her classmates in math, science and English this year. And, like when she set the state softball record, she didn’t find out how well she did academically until later.
“I wasn’t there on Awards Day,” she said. “We were playing in the regionals in Gulf Shores, so I didn’t get my awards until the next day.”
Both Bradleigh and her grandfather marveled (though in slightly different ways) over the record-setting performance.
“It’s hard to imagine 8 in a row; that’s off the charts,” said Billy Conn, while Bradleigh said, “I cannot wait to attempt to break my own record next year.” She admitted it will take “a lot of practice, at home and on the field.”
While early indications are that Bradleigh is on course for a college scholarship in the sport she loves, she said she most likely won’t have time to play softball at the collegiate level, even if she were to get the chance.
“I want to go to a big college, have fun, get my degree and be done,” she said.