State champions

Published 12:01 am Thursday, July 19, 2012

Opp’s Hope Ladson celebrates with the trophy Wednesday in Eufaula after her team beat Underwood 7-6 to claim the Dixie Belles State Tournament title. | Photo courtesy of Eufaula Tribune

Opp’s 13-to-15-year-old Babe Ruth All-Stars softball team were considered the underdogs leading into Wednesday’s Dixie Belles State Championship game against Underwood.

The Lady Bobcats took that seriously and beat the team from Florence 7-6 in nine innings to win their first state championship in Eufaula.

“I’m wore out,” Opp coach Skip Spurlin said after the game.

At the end of regulation, Opp and Underwood were neck-and-neck at 3-all. Underwood scored three runs in the top of the ninth — two runs on a home run — to go up 6-3.

With one last chance and without a doubt in anyone’s mind, Opp scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth to claim the win.

With the win, the Opp Belles advance to the Dixie World Series in Powhatan, Va. They’re the second team from Opp to win a state title in the last week as the Majors baseball team clinched a title Monday in Selma.

Underwood took its first lead in the top of the ninth inning. Bailey Nelson reached on a single and then Randi Lynn Fowler belted a home run to give the team from northwest Alabama a 5-3 lead. Cheyenne Cummings later singled to drive in Davis Watkins with Underwood’s sixth run.

Most of Opp’s ninth inning damage came with one out. Tiffany Dean reached on a fielder’s choice, and then Katlynn Schively, Paige Johnson, Courtney Chatham and Kelley Pierce followed with singles to tie the game.

With two outs, Opp’s Katie Spurlin laced an infield single that scored the game-winning run in Chatham, who was at third base.

“It was a zoo,” Spurlin said about the game after the win. “We got a little excited.”

Opp went undefeated during the state finals, and also in its district and sub-district tournament appearances.

Spurlin said this win was a “highlight” of his coaching career.

“The Underwood team we beat was from Florence,” he said. “They’ve won two to three state championships. They were the team that everybody thought was going to win it.

“We had a really, really good team,” he said. “They’ve been playing together since they were 7 years old. They did a great job.”

Neither team scored until the bottom of the fourth inning when Opp scored three runs. Underwood answered with two in the top of the fifth and one in the top of the sixth to tie the game.

Spurlin said his pitching was excellent during the tournament.

“We had super-great pitching by Chatham, Schively and Anna Harrelson,” he said. “They did a great job.”

Opp reached the finals after defeating Montgomery East 4-1 on Tuesday night.

The state championship was originally slated to be played on Tuesday night, but inclement weather postponed the game until Wednesday.

In the end, Spurlin said the girls followed the coaches’ instruction to a “T.”

“We did a lot of the little things right the majority of the time,” Spurlin said. “They did exactly what we asked them to do.”