Smiths Station coach Mike Ferry said it was a season that felt like destiny.
He didn't need a team that won 30-35 games this year, because he had one that knew how to overcome adversity and pull together when it needed to.
That's what happened.
The Panthers won their first state championship in program history. It's no surprise, then, that Ferry was awarded the Ledger-Enquirer All-Bi-City coach of the year for schools in Class 5A, 6A and 7A. Panthers junior Max Newton earned player of the year honors.
Columbus High pitcher Cason Greathouse was dominating on the mound for the majority of the season, leading his team to a Region 1-AAAAA championship. For his efforts, he was named pitcher of the year.
Newton is a humble player. He credits his defense for backing him up when he's on the mound rather than taking any credit himself. But, while the Panthers' defense was very good, its success had a lot to do with Newton, as well.
He's not a strikeout pitcher, really, but induces a lot of lazy flies and playable grounders. He finished the year 6-6 on the mound, a misleading number when you consider his 1.33 earned run average and the two gems he pitched against Fairhope (Class 7A semifinals) and Thompson (Class 7A finals).
His impact at the plate was also an important reason for the team's success. He hit .441 on the season, knocking 16 doubles and driving in 35. He hit just one home run, but that was a grand slam to shut the door on Fairhope in Game 2 of the semifinals.
Ferry said he was proud to see those kind of performances from Newton, as well as the rest of the team. And that, more than anything, is what made his championship season worthwhile.
"Obviously winning the state championship was a huge moment for our kids, for our coaching staff, for our community, for our school," he said. "Coaches also tend to remember the negatives and the things that you learn from them as much as the positive outcome at the end. There were times at the end of the year where we were struggling, and we sat down and had talks and kids stepped up. The things you remember are kids doing things you know they can do but maybe they're not so sure that they can do.
"It was one of those years where you felt like it was destiny, like we were touched and blessed by a higher power. Like things were going to go our way."
For Greathouse, it was a season that began with plenty of question marks. When his team needed a strong leader and ace on the mound to step up, he became the guy.
He finished the season with a 7-3 record and a 1.08 earned run average in just over 64 innings pitched. Behind his consistency on the mound, his team won the Region 1-AAAAA championship.
"We did get hot, and I had a couple good outings there," he said. "I just relaxed more on the mound. My sophomore year I was more amped up. This year, I was just relaxed and did what I had to do and let my defense work."
He said he believes he earned the ace pitcher role this year, and plans to improve even more going into his senior season.