HARTSELLE — It’s been a good 20-year run for Hartselle softball.
The Tigers have five state championship trophies to prove it.
The formula for success includes great coaching. Head coach Christy Ferguson has been a part of all five championship teams.
It also includes great players. Shortstop Kalli Cartee and centerfielder Kylie Winton have played vital roles in keeping the success going. They were part of the 2018 state championship team.
This past season they both had monster seasons that helped return the Hartselle Tigers to the state tournament. They are The Daily’s Class 5A-7A Co-Players of the Year.
“Since 1999 we’ve had a lot of great players go through the program,” Ferguson said. “These two are definitely among the top. They’ve left their mark as much as any two.”
They also left their mark on opponents. It could be a great play in the field at shortstop or in centerfield. Or it could be in the batter’s box with their magical bats. Winton batted leadoff and Cartee batted third.
The offensive numbers this season for Cartee and Winton were amazingly close. Cartee hit .450 with 59 hits. Winton hit .408 with 63 hits. Cartee scored 46 runs and had 24 extra base hits that included eight home runs. Winton scored 63 runs with 25 extra base hits that included 15 home runs. Cartee drove in 49 runs. Winton drove in 43.
“Outside of softball they are totally different,” Ferguson said. “When it comes to softball, they both like to win. I knew when they were freshmen that they were going to be special.”
The highlight of their four-year careers has to be the 2018 state championship. The Tigers surprised many of the experts by being the last team standing in Class 6A. For many months after the championship, multiple billboards featuring a photo of the team with their championship trophy greeted visitors to Hartselle.
“They way the community treated us was amazing,” Winton said. “They treated us like rock stars.”
The 2019 season turned out to be a test of great expectations. Despite having most of the state championship team back, the Tigers went through a season of ups and downs. It took at least one team meeting to get the Tigers headed in the right direction in time for post-season play.
After a great performance in the regional, the run ended after three games at the state tournament. The final game saw Spanish Fort win on a walk-off home run in the eighth inning.
Hartselle's record over the last two seasons is a combined 74-29.
Winton was selected to the Class 6A All-State first team. She will attend UAH, but does not plan to play softball.
“It’s been an honor to be a part of this program,” Winton said.
Cartee was selected to the 6A All-State second team as an infielder. She plans to play softball for Wallace State in Hanceville.
“I’m going to miss Coach Ferguson,” Cartee said. “She’s always been there for me and has been like a second mom. We’ll all miss her and miss playing for Hartselle.”