190515 Hatton vs Thorsby 7

Hatton's Cloey Lovelady's teammates wait for her at home plate after he grandslam home run against Thorsby in the second inning of the game of the Class 2A championships at Lagoon Park Montgomery last season.[MATT MCKEAN/TIMESDAILY]

When the new ASWA softball rankings were released on Thursday, there was a familiar team gracing the top line in class 2A. 

For the second week in a row, the Hatton Hornets were voted the top team in the 2A classification of AHSAA softball. 

Usually, that would be cause for a mini celebration. After all, not many teams get the honor being ranked No. 1. 

Sadly, that was not the case this week. 

Sure it felt cool to be ranked No. 1, as it should, but for many the ranking was just a reminder of what has been lost this season, and how much more can still be lost. 

Officially, the AHSAA spring sports season has been put on hold since this past Wednesday. That's because last Friday Governor of Alabama Kay Ivey declared a statewide closing of schools in response to the recent out break of the Covid-19 or the Coronavirus. It was a tough decision to make, but, despite the virus having a relatively low death rate in the states, it was a necessary one to make given how unknown it is and how easily it seems to spread. 

So with the schools closed that meant any in all school functions were called off as well, which included all athletic events. 

Technically, schools could play games this past Monday and Tuesday before the statewide closing of schools but the majority of Alabama schools, including all those here in Lawrence County, opted to start early and cancel games on those days. 

That means that despite being ranked No. 1 in this week's ranking, the Hornets haven't played since last week when the initial rankings were released. Even worse, they will not play another game until at least April 6, maybe at all. 

"It's a tough situation. Obviously there are things that are bigger than sports, but sports provides us a sense of normalcy and without them it can make things hard to endure," said Hatton head softball coach Denton Bowling. "It's almost a surreal feeling. A lot of people, like me, have been doing this for years and to take away the thing you love most, the ability to compete, it's hard to put into words how tough that is." 

As for what a coach or his players are forced to do when contained to their house, unable to practice, workout or coerce with one another in any capacity. 

"I try to do what I do every night and that's look at stats and numbers, because I'm a numbers guy. But eventually you realize those stats haven't changed in a week," said Bowling. "As for the girls I hope it's just like going back to basics. Most of them grew up tossing the ball around in the front yard or hitting the ball off a tee. Hopefully, they'll go back to that."

When the rankings were released this week, Bowling had a response that was most likely the same that everyone else in the Hatton community had. 

"It's nice and certainly something to be proud of. We are definitely appreciative of the sports writers in this state for voting as such," Bowling said. "At the same time though, it kind of just makes it worse. Because we want to be out there proving why we deserve that ranking." 

The harsh reality is though, they might never get that opportunity. 

Schools right now are set to resume on April 6, but that could easily get pushed back following a meeting on March 30. In fact, it's possible they might not resume at all for the rest of the semester. 

The rankings that were released Thursday could be the last we get this season. 

That would mean Hatton would finish the season No. 1. Unfortunately, that ranking would come with no championships, no trophies, no banners to fly in the gym. 

No, all that No. 1 would come with would be an asterisk to follow. 

"The day before the schools closed I was cleaning in the locker room and the whole team came to see me and check on me," Bowling said. "It meant a lot to me, but you also realize that they're trying to fill that void that's been created. They need that hope that this isn't over, that at some point it's going to continue."

"So right now whether or not we'll get to take the field again this season is unknown, and that unknown is unfortunate," he said. "But it's also that unknown that's keeping us going."

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