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Hesson, Lady Airedales set for state- 5/13/2021

By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


The Alma Lady Airedales didn’t necessarily take a straight path to the state tournament. 


But a deep bond within provided a boost the team needed during last week’s must-win doubleheader with Greenbrier. 


"With this team, we are all just very passionate about the sport,” senior Shelbi Hesson said. “We all love to compete. We're all really excited to go to the state tournament. We've all played together for a long time; we all get along during the games.”


Alma (20-10) will face White Hall (17-7) Thursday at the 5A state tournament in Mountain Home. 


Coach Charla Parrish’s crew finished the season strong, winning 17 of 23 games. 


But the Lady Airedales needed to sweep a season-ending doubleheader with Greenbrier to secure their spot at the state tournament. Alma won the first game, 6-4, then rallied late for an 11-10 win in the nightcap. 


"We were all very nervous about it,” Hesson said. “(But) we just kept with it, and we all shed a couple of tears together. To make it out at the end, that was big.”


Hesson credits Parrish for strong encouragement. 


“Playing for coach Parrish is pretty fun, actually," she said. "She's a tough coach, but she also knows how to have fun and make us laugh. She definitely knows how to push us."


It’s been a big season for Hesson, the team’s second baseman. After sitting out her sophomore season, Hesson returned to the field in 2020. 


But COVID wiped out a potentially big season for the Lady Airedales. Hesson played a couple of summer league games before coming back for 2021. 


She’s hitting .354 with 18 RBIs in a power-packed lineup that includes four hitters — Taelynn Perry, Julia Nutt, Bailey Webb and Makenzie Martin — batting over .400. 


“I love experiencing it with all these girls,” Hesson said. “We feed off each other's energy.”


Hesson said she’s played softball since she was 3. “It’s always been my passion to play softball,” she said. “I played volleyball, too. But I’ve always wanted to play softball.”


Alma and White Hall have one common opponent between them (Greenbrier). The Lady Panthers defeated the Lady Bulldogs, 12-6, back on March 15. 


But after winning 14 of 17, Greenbrier dropped seven of its final 11 games.


“We definitely have to work together,” Hesson said. “We channel everything into the game.”


Hesson is one of five seniors in Parrish’s lineup. Jacklyn Petree finished 5-5 on the mound with a pair of no-hitters. She also hit .325. 


Fellow seniors Webb, Kelsey Shepherd and Lydia Swarnes combined to drive in 49 runs — in addition to the 33 combined RBIs from Hesson and Petree. 


Hesson said she’s proud to represent her school. 


“I just feel honored to play and represent the school,” she said. “I always try to keep a good attitude, because I am representing Alma High School.”