Eagle Elite softball: Smith leads Bears to runner-up finish
by W. Brian Hale
Jun 22, 2014 | 1501 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lynn softball coach Philip Smith talks to his team during the North-Central Regional Tournament in Tuscaloosa. Smith guided the Bears to 48 wins and a second-place finish in the State Softball Tournament. Photo by Johnathan Bentley
Lynn softball coach Philip Smith talks to his team during the North-Central Regional Tournament in Tuscaloosa. Smith guided the Bears to 48 wins and a second-place finish in the State Softball Tournament. Photo by Johnathan Bentley
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LYNN — The 2014 season was an unforgettable year for Lynn softball coach Philip Smith and his program.

The Bears experienced the most successful season in history, winning a stunning 48 games, advancing to AHSAA Class 1A playoffs for the first time in four years and playing in the championship title game.

Along the way, five members of Smith’s squad — seniors Reagan Tittle, Tiffany Self, Brooklyn Beck, Emma Easley and sophomore Holly Murray — were named to Class 1A’s All-State team or were honorable mentions. Smith is the Daily Mountain Eagle’s Softball Coach of the Year.

The landmark season and accolades wouldn’t come easy for the Bears as they faced an ensemble of worthy competitors — securing victories over ranked opponents such as Berry, Pleasant Valley, Holly Pond, Athens Bible, South Lamar and Sumiton Christian — through weekly matches and tournament action.

Through the trials, tribulations and adversity Lynn faced on and off the field, Smith said his senior leadership was the most stabilizing and driving force behind the team’s success.

“The numbers speak for themselves as far as what this group of seniors has done since they’ve arrived here to play as young ladies,” Smith said. 

“They’re the most successful group that ever went through our program — they averaged 40 wins a season, but took it a step forward this year to make it all the way to the state final. From the time they stepped onto the practice field as seventh graders through the final game with Brantley, each one of those seniors gave everything that they had and worked hard to help us attain the level of success that we had. It’s a special group of girls — one that will certainly be missed by all of us.”

The senior leadership helped Smith overcome the biggest obstacle of the season in mid-March, when a trio of losses to Sumiton Christian, Carbon Hill and Oakman, as well as the loss of a beloved member of the Lynn community, threatened to derail the Bears’ dreams of a historic year.

Smith’s veterans, however, would quickly help him get his team back on track.

“I think we had grown complacent at that point. We started the year by winning 20 games in a row and I think the team may have gotten caught up in thinking it would be that easy all year long,” Smith said. 

“Those three losses, together with the tragedy we all had to deal with off the field, I think served as a wake-up call. We had to come back together and get on the same page. We had a little over a month at that point to make a run and every moment counted. The girls’ determination shined through and stayed with us all the way through the playoffs. It’s what you want to see out of your team as a coach and I couldn’t be more proud of those girls.”