The Grayson County High School softball program may not have earned any varsity wins in a recent four-game spring break trip to Alabama, but head coach Penny Reece is confident it’s yet another piece in building the foundation of turning the program around.

The veteran coach has been taking programs such as Bowling Green Greenwood and Meade County to the Gulf coast since 1998, she said.

In her second season in leading her alma mater, she said the spring break trip, “Was planned to hopefully help in one of my main goals since taking this job — to help in changing the overall culture of this softball program.”

Reece said she hopes players, parents and school administrators, “all see how trips like this are valuable experiences for our girls and our program, and we do it regularly.”

She said that could mean taking a trip south every other year initially and expand so that trips may include spring break destinations to Florida and South Carolina.

“The trip allowed for some much-needed team bonding, and it’s my hope these relationships will continue to grow and they’ll fight harder for each other out on the field,” Reece said.

On the field, the varsity went 0-4 with losses to Foley, Daphne, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, all of Alabama. The junior varsity went 1-3.

“The competition down there is really tough,” Reece said. “Their season begins mid-February, so they’re nearing the end of their season while we’re just a few weeks in and most of these girls play together or separately on high-level travel teams. It’s eye-opening for our kids to see how others their age are playing at a very fundamentally sound, highly competitive level.”

Reece hopes being introduced to that level of play will be “motivating to them of what hard work and dedication can bring about.”

She said despite the losses there were a number of positive on-field aspects to the trip.

“I’ve always had the belief that you have to expose your teams to high-level teaching and playing for them to truly understand the game,” she said. “Unfortunately, we are very far behind here in Grayson County with a lack of fastpitch league opportunities for young girls. They need to be introduced at 6-8 years of age instead of 12-13 or even later. It’s hard to win when you’re playing catch up.”

In the Lady Cougars’ second game of the trip, a 7-4 loss to Class 7-A Daphne, ranked 11th in the state, junior Addy Bratcher and seventh-grader Payton Bowman hit their first-ever homeruns and Grayson County held a 4-3 lead going into the bottom of the fifth inning.

“(We) walked away feeling excited and proud of our efforts,” Reece said.

In an 11-1 loss to Class 4-A Orange Beach, ranked No, 1, Shelby Davis — one of only two seniors in the program along with Mallory Lindsey — belted a first-inning homerun. Orange Beach has won state titles in their only two years of existence.

“All of this is encouraging from the standpoint of what I’m trying to build here, but we still have so much to learn — how to prepare, how to compete and how to ultimately win — and this all comes from buying into accountability, commitment, sacrifice, things that are not yet happening consistently in our program,” she said.

Reece said the program used a pair of “two really successful fundraisers” by the booster club to completely fund the trip.

“Both the players and parents have worked hard to make this great opportunity happen, and I’m hoping it’s something we’ll do often for the continued growth of our program,” Reece said.

Jeff D’Alessio can be reached at

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