CAPSHAW — Standing along the third-base line, the members of East Limestone High’s baseball team stood proudly as the public address played the national anthem.
Smiles were wide. Enthusiasm was high. Normality had returned.
For East Limestone, baseball finally came back to its home field.
East Limestone hosted its first home baseball game Monday in almost two years, beating Decatur 12-5 in the season opener. The Indians’ baseball and softball facilities were destroyed April 27, 2011, by an EF-5 tornado that caused extensive damage in the Capshaw community.
“You have no idea how great it was to finally be able to play a home game,” East Limestone right fielder Hunter Waites said. “Not being able to play here last year was awful. It’s like we didn’t have a real season.”
Senior pitcher Tanner Russell agreed.
“Last year was hard on us,” he said. “All of those road trips were tough. That’s what makes today so special.”
The conditions weren’t ideal. Even though the temperature ranged in the upper 50s, a strong and steady wind made for a chilly evening.
But the players endured, and so did the members of the community who filled the ballpark’s stands.
“It was great to see so many people come out and support us,” Russell said. “There have been times in the past where only parents would show up, but we had a nice crowd tonight. I’m glad they were here to share this with us.”
Construction of the new facilities began last spring after insurance hurdles were cleared. And even though the fields are usable, East Limestone principal Dennis Black said the repairs aren’t complete.
“It’s getting there,” Black said. “All of the light poles are up, the dugouts and buildings are rebuilt and fields are playable. There are still a few minor things that have to be done, but we’ve got our teams back out here.”
The homecoming did have one technical issue. Throughout the game, the school’s new scoreboard flashed on and off. But the minor bug didn’t dampen the Indians’ spirits about bringing baseball back to their home field.
East Limestone got its new coach, Brad Craig, his first win, and players signed a game ball following the game.
“That made what was already a great day even that much better,” Waites said. “I’m glad we got it for him on our first game back.”
East Limestone (1-0) scored 12 runs on eight hits to cruise past Decatur. Waites hit a homer in the bottom of the third to give the Indians a 5-1 lead. He finished with two hits and three RBIs.
Colby Snead finished with a triple and two RBIs for East Limestone, while Seth Fowler added a double and two RBIs.
Russell got the win on the mound, striking out six while holding Decatur (0-1) to four hits in the complete game.
Jackson Fite led Decatur at the plate with two hits and two RBIs.
“It’s great that we got our first win,” Russell said. “Even though last season was tough, I think having to play all of our games on the road sort of brought us together and makes us realize that you can’t take anything for granted. We waited a long time for this day. Now I just want to make this a special season.”
Contact Justin Graves at 256-340-2460 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.