Lady Eagles earn 12th straight trip
GULF SHORES — Pleasant Home secured its 12th consecutive state tournament berth Saturday night in a 17-4 rout over Brantley in the loser’s bracket finals of the Class 1A South Regional Softball Tournament.
The Lady Eagles built a 3-2 lead in the top of the third inning and went on to score eight runs in the fourth to take a commanding 11-2 lead over BHS.
PHS added six runs in the seventh, thanks to some good hitting.
With the win, PHS finished the regional tournament as the No. 2 seed going into the state tournament this week. Kinston, the Lady Eagles’ big rival, defeated PHS 5-1 in the winner’s bracket finals earlier on Saturday to garner the No. 1 seed coming out of the south.
When asked what getting back to the state tournament means to the team, PHS head coach Bradley Stephens said it’s a meaningful accomplishment.
“It feels good,” Stephens said. “The monkey’s kind of off my back, self applied. As a coach, you have expectations. I had my own.
“My goal was definitely to get back, to get there,” he said. “Our goal is still to win state, no doubt. It hasn’t changed. We’re just kind of taking a different route.”
Pleasant Home’s Cassidy Godwin led off the fourth inning with a single, and Ashley Waldhour came in on an error at right on a hit by Abigail Kelley.
Kelley came home on an RBI single from Caitlin Jernigan, and Anna Bulger later scored on an error to make it 6-2.
Brianna Dozier then laid down an RBI bunt to score Jernigan from third and later scored on an error that reached Jordan McGhee.
PHS then loaded the bases with two outs, scored three runs on two walks and a hit by pitch to push the game to 11-2.
In an important game against a good Brantley team, Stephens said the fourth inning essentially “broke the ice.”
“I’ve been saying this all year,” he said. “Brantley is so good. That (17-4) score doesn’t reflect how good they are.
“Every time we play them, I have to stay on edge. They’re fighters. They don’t give up,” he said.
Brantley had an opportunity to score in the fifth, but was denied by smart defensive fielding from third baseman Krissie Herman.
Pleasant Home ace pitcher Emily Byrd threw five innings, allowing two runs on three hits and striking out two for the win.
Abby Walker, Taylor McGhee and Kelley had an RBI each in the top of the seventh, where PHS led 17-3.
Kelley went 3-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs to lead PHS; Jernigan went 4-for-5 with four singles; Bulger went 2-for-4; Jordan McGhee went 2-for-4 with two RBIs; and Godwin went 2-for-5 with an RBI.
Brantley’s Sydnee Bryan led off the sixth with a double and later scored on Morgan Harris’ single to put the game at 11-3.
BHS led 2-0 after the first inning before Pleasant Home later took a 3-2 lead in the top of the third when McGhee hit a two-run double.
In the winner’s bracket final, PHS trailed 1-0 before the weather delay. KHS took a 3-0 lead on a two-run triple by Chelbie Fuller in the top of the third inning.
PHS scored its only run on a Bulger RBI in the bottom of the third.
Tragedy struck the Lady Eagles in the last inning, where senior catcher Ashley Copeland hurt her right knee again after touching first base.
Copeland was carried off the field, carted to the trainers’ table, and then taken to South Baldwin Regional Medical Center for X-rays and further evaluation.
Melissa Copeland, Ashley’s mom, said the doctor thinks that it’s a possible meniscus tear, and that the X-ray didn’t indicate any breaks.
Mrs. Copeland said her daughter will have a follow-up appointment with an orthopedic doctor, and is probable for this week’s state tournament action.
Stephens said the girls showed a lot about themselves when they bounced back from the loss to Kinston and Copeland’s injury to beat Brantley.
“I was worried, but the girls came through and did what they were supposed to do,” the coach said. “We’re still giving the glory to God and trying to let Him to continue to carry us.”
PHS plays Decatur Heritage at 10:30 a.m. Friday in the first round of the state tournament at Lagoon Park in Montgomery.
Florala ends season
Florala isn’t going to be a punching bag anymore.
The Lady Wildcats learned a lot at the Class 1A South Regional Softball Tournament over the weekend, where they ended their season in a 10-2 loss to Brantley on Saturday in the loser’s bracket semifinals.
After a more-than three-hour weather delay, FHS held on to beat McKenzie 2-1 to secure its farthest run in the regional tournament.
With the loss to BHS, the Lady Wildcats ended their season 19-19.
“It’s part of the game,” FHS head coach Pat Maddox said about the loss. “Somebody’s got to win and somebody’s got to lose. I just hate that it was us.”
Florala stayed neck and neck with Brantley at 2-2 until the sixth inning, where BHS surged ahead to take the big lead.
“We had an error or two, and it tended to snowball,” Maddox said. “It seemed like we couldn’t get over that little hump. You’ve got to be able to put the last play behind you and go on to the next play.”
In Florala’s 2-1 win over MCHS, Bailea Rickett scored the Lady Wildcats’ two runs — one in the first inning and the other in the bottom of the sixth off of Lyndsee Edwards’ RBI single.
Lily Ritzel struck out 12 batters and allowed one run on three hits in seven innings for the win.
Maddox said he took a lot of “positive” things away from the tournament.
“I’m real positive about this,” he said. “I think we’ve got a bright future. Folks better look out for Florala.”