Lady Wildcats go 1-2 at statePublished 6:00am Saturday, May 19, 2012
MONTGOMERY — Tharptown High may only be graduating its fourth group of seniors this year, but the school has seen its fair share of success in sports this year.
This culminated Thursday with the Lady Wildcats softball team making its first-ever appearance at the state tournament in Montgomery.
The second-place finish at Huntsville meant that Tharptown would be facing Maplesville in round one, which ended with a 14-3 victory for the Lady Red Devils.
The Lady Wildcats took an early lead in the top of the first with an RBI by Brae Sellers. The Lady Red Devils tied up the game with a run off their own, but the Lady Wildcats went back ahead in the second on an RBI single by Kaitlyn Vandiver.
Maplesville took its first lead of the game with two runs in the bottom of the inning, going up 3-2.
The Lady Red Devils had back-to-back big innings after that, scoring seven runs in the third and four runs in the fourth.
The only other run of the game for Tharptown came on a single by Sellers, which ended up allowing Autumn Sutter to score on a wild throw.
Things turned around for the Lady Wildcats in the second game of the day. Tharptown defeated the South Lamar Lady Stallions 3-1, ending the season of a 37-win team that was ranked fourth in 1A in the state.
“It was awesome,” said Tharptown head coach Susie Sellers after the game. “If that doesn’t make you believe that you should be here then nothing will.”
The Lady Wildcats took the lead in game two in the first inning when a bases loaded balk by South Lamar allowed Sutter to score.
Tharptown extended its lead to 3-0 in the top of the third when Shelby Palmer hit a two-RBI double.
The Lady Stallions scored their lone run in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI single. Tharptown did not allow any more runs and picked up the state tournament win, another first for the school.
Game three saw the Lady Wildcats facing a familiar foe; Athens Bible.
Just a week before the two teams had a long, dragged out fight to decide first place in the North Regional. This game would prove to be no different, as the teams yet again found themselves fighting a war of attrition.
Athens Bible and Tharptown were dead even through the first four and a half innings of the game. Athens Bible had a few opportunities to pick up a run before then, but the Lady Wildcats’ defense kept the score even through the early innings.
The Lady Panthers finally ended the tie in the bottom of the fifth on a two-RBI double. Tharptown answered back in the top of the sixth.
Erika Sparks started off the inning by popping a bunt up over the infielders of Athens Bible for a single, followed with another single by Sutter.
A groundout by Savannah Hamilton advanced the runners, putting both Sparks and Sutter in scoring position.
Sellers brought them in with a two-RBI double to the center field wall, and a wild throw allowed her to take third base during the play.
Cassie Fuller wasted no time bringing Sellers in with an RBI single, giving the Lady Wildcats a 3-2 lead. Fuller then stole second base on a wild pitch, followed by a single by Haley Malone, which sent Fuller to third. Another wild pitch allowed Fuller to extend Tharptown’s lead to 4-2.
The Lady Wildcats kept that lead until the bottom of the seventh. Athens Bible had one last-chance at-bat, and they ended up making the most of it.
The Lady Panthers tied the game at 4-4 with a two-RBI double, but Tharptown’s defense did not allow a third run in the inning, preserving the tie.
It seemed only fitting that the two teams, which played each other three times at the North Regional, would go into extra innings to decide the contest.
The Lady Wildcats could not manage to bring in a run in the eighth and ninth innings, and a bases loaded hit-by-pitch gave Athens Bible a 5-4 win in the bottom of the ninth.
Tharptown may have gone 1-2 at the tournament, but that does not change the fact that they ended up tied for fifth in 1A Alabama softball. Only four 1A teams in the state can claim to have had a better season.
“It’s amazing,” Coach Sellers said. “It’s a huge accomplishment for our girls. Our young girls did well. I knew the talent was there three years ago, it was just a question of getting them to play like they can.”
The Lady Wildcats went 22-19 on the season.