Lady Warriors’ Abby Lea leads All-Cherokee County Softball selections

Cherokee County High School’s Abby Lea smacks a double to left field to score a pair of runs in the Lady Warriors’ 10-0 win in five innings against Fyffe last season. Lea was recently selected by the Cherokee County softball coaches as their Player of the Year. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

Throughout her high school softball career, Cherokee County High School senior Abby Lea has played just about every position possible. But being a pitcher has taught her a lot on how to become a clutch hitter.

That’s because she thinks like a pitcher at the plate.

“When I get in the box, the first pitch the pitcher is trying to throw a strike to get ahead early. That’s why I’m usually attacking that first pitch,” Lea said. “If she doesn’t get me on the first one, I know she’s going to come back with a strike again. You just have to know where they’re going to go and what their approach is to the batter. It can help you succeed in the box.”

Lea had a lot of success in the batter’s box for the Lady Warriors in 2024. She batted .434 with 16 doubles, five triples, five home runs, 17 walks, 34 runs and 47 RBIs. In 152 at-bats, Lea struck out only six times.

Add in her pitching numbers (6-5 with a save and 89 strikeouts) and one begins to see how valuable the Cherokee County softball coaches felt Lea was to her team. They selected her as their All-Cherokee County Softball Player of the Year.

“It’s an honor,” Lea said. “Last year when the season ended we (seniors) knew we had one more year left. We went back to work on our own, throwing and hitting, anything just to get a little bit better each day. That’s what it takes, just working a little more every day. We all worked hard.”

Although the Lady Warriors (36-11) didn’t reach their ultimate goal of winning a Class 4A state title, their hard work did result in a six-win improvement from last season, including the school’s first win at the state tournament since 2013, a 5-4 comeback win over Prattville Christian.

The Lady Warriors also battled eventual state champion Orange Beach to the wire, losing a one-run game in eight innings 7-6.

Lea was a big reason for that.

“That old saying goes playmakers make big plays at the big times, and that’s what she did,” Lady Warrior head coach Brad Weaver said. “Any time we needed something huge, she did it. If we needed a spark at the plate, on the mound, or in the outfield, she gave us that spark of energy. When we got that spark as a team, then we got better. She had that spark for us a lot of times. She’s going to be missed.”

Lea credits part of her success in part to her younger sister, sophomore outfielder Macy Lea.

“It’s definitely special playing with my sister,” she said. “We’re always pushing each other to get better. It’s always been uplifting support. We never want to bring each other down. We didn’t ever fight. It was just always supportive. We used to take hitting lessons together and she would always go catch my (pitching) lessons. We just grew up around the softball. That’s just how it was. We’re a softball family.”

And that softball family will have a new added dimension in 2024 as Abby Lea heads to Northeast Alabama Community College in Rainsville. She signed a softball scholarship with the school back in December.

“It’s one of the saddest things I’ve experienced, playing my last softball game for Cherokee County with all of my best friends,” she said. “The next time we play it will be against a couple of them in college. We’re all like sisters, and it’s definitely hard to leave, but looking back I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m just proud of us.”

This year, the Cherokee County softball coaches also selected a Pitcher of the Year and had co-Hitters of the Year.

The Pitcher of the Year honor went to Lady Warrior sophomore Emma Hill (22-4 with four saves, 266 strikeouts and a 1.23 ERA). Sand Rock senior shortstop Kaitlyn St.Clair and Gaylesville catcher/infielder Emma Givens were chosen as the Hitters of the Year.

St.Clair batted .513 with 19 doubles, nine triples, seven home runs, 12 walks, 42 runs and 47 RBIs. Givens collected a .548 batting average with 17 doubles, four triples, two home runs, nine walks, 36 runs and 31 RBIs.

Joining Lea and Hill from Cherokee County High School on the all-county softball team is Lanie Williams, Grayson Tucker and Anna Walker.

Representing Spring Garden is Avery Steward, Helena Ingram, Maggie Reedy and Maggie Jarrett.

Joining St.Clair from Sand Rock is Emma Sipsy and Bailey Kilgore. Cedar Bluff also has three representatives in Za’Niya Kyle, Ciana Smith and Rylie Walker.

Gracie Dawson joins Givens as an all-county selection from Gaylesville.

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