The Alabama All-Star Sports Week softball game was entertaining, even if the North all-stars scored 11 runs in the first game to pull out an extra-inning victory and dominated in the nightcap 6-1 to extend their record in the series to 27-23-3.
The entertainment was provided by Chilton County senior Marlie Giles, who recorded an all star-record eight RBIs in the contest. Not since Sumiton Christian’s Kendall Beth Sides participated in the event in 2016 has one person captivated the audience with her ability at the plate.
“We knew we were getting a special kid,” said South all-star coach Nathan Rainey of Wicksburg. “Obviously, she’s going to Alabama and with her performance today, she proved why she’s going to Alabama. She’s an amazing hitter.”
Giles made four trips to the plate and sent all four pitches on a hold-your-breath ride to the fence. Her first at-bat came in the bottom of the first inning with her team trailing 2-0. North pitcher Tessa Word couldn’t get a clean glove on a pair of grounders hit by Chloe Baynes and Kristen White, resulting in a pair of infield singles.
One out later, Giles drilled a pitch over the center field fence and into the woods behind the field at Lagoon Park Field Six, possibly the second hardest hit home run after Crystl Bustos’ towering shot to right field for Team USA in an exhibition game against a collection of Southern collegiate all-stars in 2004.
“It was the first at-bat of the day and I was just going to go in there aggressive and try to hit the first strike that she gave me,” Giles said. “It was a little out, a little down the middle and I just kind of took it.”
South all-star coach Brian Pittman of Prattville complimented his star for keeping her word.
“She has a natural ability,” Pittman said. “When you see her today, it’s just her leadership and the way she goes about her business. She’s in command out there when she’s behind the plate. We had the pitcher struggling early, she goes out there and talks to her. She likes the big moment, it’s never too big for her. She comes up and hits the three-run jack and when she comes back to the dugout, she tells the pitcher, ‘I told you I’d take care of you.’ That’s just the type of kid she is. That’s why Alabama wanted her.”
With all 17 South players batting, Giles wouldn’t return to the plate until the fifth inning. With her team trailing 7-3 and the bases loaded, it was Mars Hill Bible pitcher Riley Vaughn who made the mistake of pitching to the heralded catcher, who slugged 20 home runs for the Tigers this past season.
Giles sent a 3-1 pitch from Vaughn over the center field fence for a grand slam to tie the game.
“I knew I hit it high,” she said. “Sometimes I just get so much power on it, it still goes out even if it’s more of a higher, popup-type deal. But even if it wouldn’t have gone over, it would have scored the run (from third) and that was my job, to score the run.”
She was on deck in the eighth inning with her team trailing 11-8, but Alexis Milanowski popped up for the third out to end the game. As a result, Giles led off the second game as the first batter but flied out to deep right field in foul territory.
She would come to bat just once more in the doubleheader, stepping to the plate in the fifth inning against Helena’s Camryn Bailey with runners on second and third. She didn’t hit a home run, but she didn’t disappoint, either, lofting a fly ball about three feet shy of another home run, allowing Baynes to score the South’s only run.
“Whenever I hit it, it felt different,” she said. “I knew it was going (close to the fence) but, again, I was just trying to drive in the run. I wasn’t trying to hit one out. If I did, I’d probably swing and miss.”
Not surprisingly, an eight-RBI performance earned her South most valuable player honors but she was more grateful for the time she spent with her teammates, lingering around the field for several minutes after the game to chat with all-star teammates.
“It was amazing,” she said. “The girls on the team, I love them. They were so nice and hopefully I can keep in touch with them. And I got to meet new people on the North team that I had not known before. My main goal was just to have fun, get to know people, have a good time.”
She was listed on the roster as an infielder because she played third base and shortstop for the Tigers this season as she recovered from a bone bruise on her knee that prevented her from catching. While her defensive position for the Tide in 2023 remains uncertain, her performance on Wednesday was an indication that Patrick Murphy will find a position for his future power hitter.
“I think I’m going to playing a little outfield and doing a little catching,” she said. “I’m just going to be whatever he needs me to be. I can play infield, I can play outfield. But I can’t pitch. Don’t put me at pitcher.”