Straughn gets berth; Opp ends season
GULF SHORES — Straughn’s Lady Tigers weren’t about to let head coach Trent Taylor give up coaching softball anytime soon.
After two years as the Lady Tigers’ coach, Taylor is going to step down and let SHS assistant coach Kenny Skipper take over next year.
That transition is going to have to wait until after next week because the Lady Tigers beat Opp 5-4 in the winner’s bracket finals of the Class 3A South Regional Tournament Saturday to earn a berth to the state softball tournament in Montgomery. SHS starts its state tournament on Friday at 10:30 a.m. against Madison Academy, the No. 2 seed out of the North regional, at Lagoon Park.
This will be Straughn’s first appearance to the state tournament since 2011.
“Like I just told them, I really wanted to retire from softball,” Taylor quipped. “I guess I don’t get to.”
Straughn strutted out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning, played a lot of small ball and held on after a late Lady Bobcat rally to win the game.
Out of the seven meetings these area opponents have met this season, the Lady Tigers have only won twice.
Taylor said the early 3-0 lead, which turned into a 5-0 lead a short while later, was a big help in the win.
“Obviously, being the area champs, Opp probably felt some pressure there (in the first inning),” the Lady Tigers’ coach said. “I think our girls were a little bit relaxed. Once we got a few runs and got ahead a little bit, we might have pressed a few times.
“That was the seventh time this year, so they knew what everyone of them were capable of and certainly they did (execute well),” he said.
Straughn’s Kristen Peavey, who went 2-for-3, drove in four of the Lady Tigers’ five runs in the win.
Peavey hit a two-run double in the top of the first, and added a two-run single in the top of the third to help give SHS its 5-0 lead.
Opp, who doesn’t back down easily, started chipping away at Straughn’s lead in the bottom of the fourth inning.
With two outs, Erica Ladson laced an RBI single to score courtesy runner Tori Morgan, and Savannah Gerber launched an RBI double to score Paige Johnson to make it 5-2.
Behind a strong pitching performance from Hayden Willis, who pitched the entire tournament, the Lady Tigers’ defense never let up in the state-tournament securing game.
Laiken Free led off the bottom of the fifth and later scored on Tori Reisnour’s single to cut the lead to 5-3.
OHS held Straughn scoreless in the top of the sixth, but couldn’t push any runs across with runners in good scoring position earlier in the fifth and sixth.
Pinch hitter Katy Spurlin crushed an RBI double with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to put the Lady Bobcats within striking distance at 5-4.
With a runner on second and third, the Lady Bobcats were caught on a pop up to left for the final out of the game.
Taylor said he had to resort to some small ball in the game, and went so far as to say that he asked good hitters on the team to bunt.
“I think the biggest thing is that we bunted some girls at times you wouldn’t want to bunt,” he said. “They did a great job doing it. I gave Molly (Stewart) the bunt and she usually doesn’t bunt. It was that kind of effort, the whole deal.”
Montgomery Catholic 4, Opp 2 in 12 innings
There wasn’t a dry eye in Opp’s dugout Saturday night.
Instead of shedding tears of joy, the Lady Bobcats shed tears of sadness because their successful season came to an end.
Opp battled with Montgomery Catholic for 12 innings, but came away with a 4-2 loss to the Lady Knights in the loser’s bracket final of the Class 3A South Regional Softball Tournament in Gulf Shores.
“We’re proud of them,” OHS head coach Jimmy Reeves said. “We just couldn’t get anything rolling.”
The Lady Bobcats led 2-1 after the fifth inning, but the Lady Knights rallied to tie the game on an RBI single from Sydney O’Connor in the sixth.
After being held in the seventh, both teams went into extra innings, where the fifth went back and forth on defense.
A lack of hitting and not scoring a run on a golden opportunity plagued the Lady Bobcats in the game.
In the bottom of the 11th, Reisnour led off with a double with no outs. Courtney Chatham then bunted courtesy runner Ashley Peacock to third for the first out.
Anna Harrelson then put a bunt down just past home plate for a bunt-squeeze play, but Peacock advanced down the line, where she was tagged out on the play.
Reeves said Harrelson did exactly what she was supposed to do, but the ball didn’t travel far enough.
“It’s my fault,” he said. “We should’ve just probably done something else. Hind sight is 20-20, but if I had to do it again, I’d do the same thing. We’ve won with that all year long. The bunt just didn’t get out there.”
MC took advantage in the top of the 12th with two runs — one on an error and the other on an RBI single to right field from Hadley Taylor.
OHS scored its first run in the bottom of the first when Gerber came home on an error.
Montgomery Catholic’s Lauren Walker then laced an RBI single in the top of the fourth to tie the game at 1 apiece.
OHS made it 2-1 after Octavia Thompson’s RBI double that scored Pierce with two outs.
The Lady Bobcats finished their season 36-8-1, having reached the regional tournament for the first time in their fast-pitch history.
“It’s been a great year,” Reeves said. “We were thankful we had a great year. We just hate that it ended a little shorter than we wanted it to.”