MONTGOMERY — It's not uncommon for athletes from bigger schools across the state to ask where Good Hope and Holly Pond are located when meeting players from either community.
Those kinds of questions will no longer be a concern for a number of Alabama's best prep softball players, though, after Cara Goodwin and Katlyn Whitehead put the Raiders and Broncos on the map by being chosen as the starting pitcher and catcher for the North squad in the first game of the All-Star Sports Week softball doubleheader Tuesday night in Montgomery.
The pair of Cullman County standouts then backed up that selection by working together for three shutout innings en route to a 0-0 tie in the night's first contest. With Holly Pond's Whitehead calling the shots from behind the plate, Good Hope's Goodwin made it look easy from inside the pitcher's circle. The Raider struck out five of the state's most talented sluggers and allowed only one hit and one walk before Hatton's Hillary Carpenter took over in the fourth inning.
“I thought it was a really good experience because me and 'K-dub' played on the same travel team for awhile,” Goodwin said. “It was cool to have her catching for me. It was an honor to even start.”
Whitehead, a Wallace State commit, was practically floating after her All-Star outing.
“It was a very great experience for me,” the Bronco said. “Starting catcher, I mean, I couldn't even explain how happy it made me. To me, it means that all our hard work paid off, that somebody actually recognized us.”
Sparkman's Dale Palmer, who coached the North squad along with Ragland's Jonathan Nix, said Goodwin and Whitehead “rose to the top” during the team's practices and combine Monday and Tuesday, making them easy picks to start at their respective positions.
“We had two catchers, and I felt like Katlyn was a little bit above the other girl,” Palmer said of Whitehead. “She's good at blocking and mentally, she's real sharp. I like that in a catcher.”
Palmer's reasonings for choosing Goodwin, a UAB commit, were a bit more personal, however.
“My travel team played against Cara last weekend, so I know how good she is,” he said with a laugh. “You can hear the ball spinning when she throws it, and she's got really good movement. I felt like she gave us the best shot in that first game to get us through the first two innings without them being able to score. She proved me right.”
Whitehead lined a crisp single to right field in her first at-bat in the third inning, the North's only hit in the opening ballgame until Lawrence County's Mackenzie Hill added another in the final frame.
Between Whitehead's contributions at catcher and with the bat, Holly Pond softball coach Steve Miller was beaming with pride.
“That was special. You can't ask for anything better than that out of a kid,” he said. “I've coached 22 years now, and I've never had a kid in any sport — and I've coached almost all of them — on an All-Star team. And I've had some really good players. But she's deserving. She should be where she's at.”
Sitting next to Miller for both of Tuesday's games was Good Hope coach Wayne Harris, who was just as proud of his player.
“She did what she needed to do on the mound and didn't give up a run, so you can't complain there,” he said. “I think it's a great big deal for her and the school and the community, to see her on this grand stage down here. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It puts that icing on the cake on a great season that she's had.”
A two-run homer from Daphne's Peyton Grantham, the South's MVP, highlighted a 7-5 win for the South in the nightcap. Sparkman's Margaret Willis, the North's MVP, touted a two-run blast of her own.
Whitehead walked and later scored in the third inning of that second contest, and Goodwin piled on one more strikeout when she returned to the pitcher's circle to close out the top half of the seventh.
“I think they represented their county about as well as any county was represented here tonight,” Palmer said of Whitehead and Goodwin. “I don't think there were any mistakes made by either one of them, and they handled every kid they faced.
“Cullman ought to be proud. We had quite a few players here from Madison County, but those two kids right there shone just as much as anyone from Madison County.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.