Lady Wildcats win third-straight titlePublished 6:00am Saturday, May 5, 2012
BELGREEN — For the third-straight year the Tharptown Lady Wildcats have taken home the first place trophy for the 1A Area 13 Softball Tournament.
The Lady Wildcats found themselves twice facing the No. 1 seed in the tournament, the Belgreen Lady Bulldogs, but Tharptown picked up wins in both games, leading to the first place finish.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Tharptown head coach Susie Sellers said. “This group of girls has worked harder than any other group. I’m happy for this group of girls.”
There were seven total games in the tournament, and the Lady Wildcats had to first run the gamut to pick up the win.
The first game of the tournament involved the Vina Lady Red Devils and the Phillips She Bears.
Two and a half hours after starting Vina had picked up a 23-12 win over the team from Bear Creek.
“It feels good,” Vina head coach Chase Cochran said. “We started out good but we slacked up. We finished the game, though.”
The Lady Red Devils got on the board with a two-RBI triple, two bases loaded walks, and a fielder’s choice for an RBI in the top of the first. Beth Spencer, Ashley Moomaw and Erica Cantrell helped account for these points.
Cantrell scored again in the top of the third by stealing home plate. She was caught in a rundown between home and third, but no one on the She Bears’ team covered the plate a few throws in, allowing Cantrell to score the run.
Phillips began a comeback in the bottom of the inning by scoring six runs, making it 7-6 in Vina’s favor.
Katlyn Lucas hit an RBI single that brought in Kylie Murray in the top of the fourth, adding an insurance run to the Lady Red Devils’ lead.
Phillips took its first and only lead of the game in the bottom of the inning by scoring four runs to take a 10-7 advantage.
Phillips would go on to score two more runs in the game but to no avail, because Vina’s offense exploded in the fifth and sixth innings, accounting for 16 more runs.
Tharptown played Hackleburg in game two, and the outcome was much like the last time the two teams faced each other, as the Lady Wildcats picked up a 14-5 victory.
“We’re finally hitting the ball,” Sellers said. “We were anxious when we came out, but we had a high energy level.”
The Lady Wildcats scored five runs in the first inning, two in the second, one in the third and six in bottom of the sixth, trumping the Lady Panthers’ five runs.
Game three featured No. 1 seed Belgreen playing its first game of the day against Vina.
Vina could not get anything going on offense, and the Lady Bulldogs cruised to a 10-0 win.
“We weren’t ready to play,” Cochran said. “We didn’t hit the ball, and we didn’t play defense.”
Belgreen scored six runs in the bottom of the second, including RBI singles by Haley Simmons, Allyson Bragwell, Bridget Thompson and Baily Clark, and a two-RBI single by Laken Bragwell.
In the bottom of the fourth Thompson rounded all four bases on a throwing error to first base, bringing in Erica Smith as well.
Allyson Bragwell accounted for the last two runs for Belgreen in the game with an RBI triple in the bottom of the fifth followed by stealing home plate on a wild pitch, ending the game after five innings.
The tournament’s top two seeds met each other in the final game of day one when Belgreen faced off against Tharptown in game five.
As is custom with the two rivals, the game went down to the wire to name a winner.
The Lady Wildcats made a late rally to pick up a 7-6 win, allowing them to stay in the driver’s seat of the tournament.
“My nerves can’t take it,” Sellers said. “We were playing first not to lose. We’ve made more errors in this tournament than in the last two weeks.”
The beginning of the game was all Belgreen. Clark scored Laken Bragwell in the bottom of the second to put the Lady Bulldogs up 1-0.
Belgreen added to it’s lead in the third with an RBI single by Laken Bragwell, followed by Lauren Oliver stealing home plate on a wild pitch.
Thompson scored from third for Belgreen in the bottom of the fifth after the ball slipped from the Tharptown pitcher’s hand, making it 4-0 in favor of the Lady Bulldogs.
It was the top of the sixth before the Lady Wildcats made it on the scoreboard on an RBI double by Savannah Hamilton.
The Lady Bulldogs added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning thanks to the base running of Allyson Bragwell.
The third strike of her at-bat was in the dirt, allowing her to beat the throw to first base.
She then stole second base and third base on wild pitches before stealing home on a wild pitch.
The Lady Wildcats went into the top of the seventh with a 5-1 deficit and one last chance on offense.
Haley Malone began a rally with a two-RBI triple. She took home plate on the same play thanks to an error, narrowing Belgreen’s lead to 5-4.
“I have never run so fast in my life,” Malone said.
It was another error in the inning that allowed the Lady Wildcats to score three more runs and take a 7-5 lead.
“I told them it’s not over, we’ve got to get three outs,” Belgreen head coach Richie Hester said. “They got some big hits and we didn’t make the plays.”
The Lady Bulldogs found themselves down for the first time all day, but they were not out yet. Thompson hit a single, but was later called out at second base on a single by Oliver. Laken Bragwell hit a single as well, followed by an RBI single by Clark.
Morgan Bradford hit a fielder’s choice, but Bragwell was thrown out at home. Tharptown got out of the jam and ended the game with a win on a strikeout by pitcher Shelby Palmer.
“I told them to get in there and play like you have nothing to lose,” Sellers said. “I’m proud of them for not giving up.”
Hackleburg downed Vina 10-1 in the first game of day two but was defeated 7-0 by Belgreen in the next game.
Everything on day two came down to the rematch between Tharptown and Belgreen.
The Lady Bulldogs would have to win twice in order to take the first place trophy, but the tournament would only last one more game, as Tharptown won 8-3.
Hamilton started off the game on the right foot for Tharptown with an RBI double in the top of the first.
Kaitlyn Vandiver stole home on a wild throw in the second inning, making it 2-0 in favor of the Lady Wildcats.
Neither team would score again until the fifth inning when the Lady Bulldogs got their only three runs of the game on a sacrifice RBI by Allyson Bragwell and a two-RBI single by Thompson.
This put Belgreen up 3-2, but Tharptown reclaimed the lead with a six-run sixth inning with hits from Erika Sparks, Hamilton and Brae Sellers.
“We got the runners in scoring position but we didn’t get the hit to bring them in,” Hester said. “Things like that happen. Tharptown is a good team. Who knows, we might face them again this season. We’ve had a great season with 21 wins. I just hope it continues.”
Belgreen was unable to rally in it final at-bat, and the Lady Wildcats picked up the first-place finish in the area tournament.
“Last night was the game,” Sellers said. “We came out hungry in the box and ready to hit.”
The win puts the Lady Wildcats on to the next round of the playoffs in Huntsville on Friday.