E.A. Sports Today

Tigers tops in class

Cleburne County takes Piedmont title; Ryan, Johnson play through pain

Cleburne County's Kiara Akles (L) won three games in the circle and had three hits in the championship game, while Chelsea Parker had three hits in the finals and the game-winning hit in the semis. On the cover, the Tigers celebrate victory.

Cleburne County’s Kiara Akles (L) won three games in the circle and had three hits in the championship game, while Chelsea Parker had three hits in the finals and the game-winning hit in the semis. On the cover, the Tigers celebrate victory.

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Cleburne County finally did what all others couldn’t do previously and shut down Saks 10-3 in the championship game to to take the 12-team Piedmont Invitational this weekend at Oxford Lake. The Tigers swept to the title 5-0.

“We needed to play opponents that would help us get better and we played well this weekend,” Tigers coach Ron Ervin said. “We have not peaked yet and I believe that we are going to peak at the right time this year, which is the end of the year.”

Kiara Akles got the win in the circle and had three hits, as did Chelsea Parker.

Saks did not go quietly. The Wildcats had 13 runners, of which five were thrown out on the bases.

There were two spectacular one run semifinal games leading to the championship matchup. Cleburne County took a dramatic 1-0 win over Horseshoe Bend and then Saks rallied four times when facing elimination to tie the game and eventually beat host Piedmont 12-11 in nine innings.




Saks 12, Piedmont 11 (9 inns.)
Cleburne County 1, Horseshoe Bend 0

The Wildcats found themselves behind four times in an inning in which they had to score. They were down three twice and one twice going into their last bats with no time left on the clock and fought off defeat each time.

Daja Johnson’s two-run single put the Wildcats over the top.

“It was unbelievable,” Saks coach Michelle Lively said. “These kids did not give in.”

Johnson, the Wildcats’ shortstop, broke her nose early in the morning when she was hit with a ball in warm-ups. She decided to play at first with a bandage on her nose and then went to a protective helmet as the day extended.

She played dazzling defense and won two games with clutch hitting, including an inside-the park grand slam.

In the other semifinal, Parker’s sixth-inning single drove in the game’s only run. Akles struck out nine while keeping the Generals off the board.

“Akles was fantastic for us,” said Ervin. “And the freshman Parker, to do what she did, was big.”


Piedmont 12, Carver 1

The Bulldogs slammed 14 hits and Rachel Baggett only allowed one run from the circle.

Torre Roberts, Kendall Pressley, Madison Pike and Hayden Tyree all had hits to help the Bulldogs open up a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Peggy Ridley had two doubles, Baggett one and Hannah Hulsizer another that drove in two runs as the Bulldogs erupted for eight runs in the second on eight hits.

”Our bats are waking up after a dry spell,” Piedmont coach Rachel Smith said. “Carver threw slower speeds at us and we did a good job of adjusting.”

Saks 4, North Jackson 3

Bre Browning had two hits, a walk, two stolen bases, scored two runs and made some great plays in the field to lead Saks.

The lefty led off the first with a walk, Laken Haynes singled and both came home on a two run single by Johnson. Browning and Taylor Teague singled in the second and scored on Haynes’ two-run single that extended the lead to 4-0.

“We’ve got some kids playing hurt and showing great leadership,” said Saks coach Michelle Lively.”Daja and Laken are playing hurt and we are playing so well after the break. No more practices before games may be the answer.”

Jacksonville 5, Ohatchee 1

Sullie Mabry shut down the Indians on just three hits to clinch first place in Pool C. Mabry also banged out two hits at the plate and scored a run.

Reagan Stallings went 3-for-3 with a walk, scored two runs and drove in two.

”She is a fantastic player for us,” Jacksonville coach C.J. Boyd said. “She is fast, aggressive, works hard and does a great job for us at the top of the order.”

Shay Clements provided the bulk of Ohatchee’s offense. She singled in the first, stole second and scored on a wild pitcher. She also had a third-inning single. Maggie Phillips had the Indians’ only other hit.

“Sullie pitched fantastic and the defense stepped up behind her today,” Boyd said.

Catcher Caitlyn Ryan guided Mabry through her gem despite playing with torn ligaments in her catching hand sustained the night before. Her heavily taped thumb made it extremely painful to catch and she was going to catch a hard-thrown ball on every play.

“The doctor said I could not hurt it any worse, so I played,” Ryan said. “Every pitch really hurt. I just kind of closed my eyes after each pitch and held my breath.”

Her father said she hid the injury from the coaches with a batting glove because she was the team’s only catcher and did not want to let her team down. She even got a hit.

“Caitlyn did a great job out there playing today,” Boyd said.



Ohatchee 8, North Jackson 3

The Indians were relentless at the plate as Joria Steger belted a two-run homer and Maggie Phillips had two hits and three RBIs. Morgan Lee scored three times and Clements twice.

Piedmont 5, Ranburne 4

Piedmont almost blew a four-run lead, but rallied in the bottom of the fifth in the time-shortened game. Kayleigh Williams scored the game-winning run on Pressley’s grounder to short. Williams had two hits.

Horseshoe Bend 3, Weaver 0

The Bearcats gave up three unearned runs and were held to three hits by the Generals. Lauren Reed, Rayne Beck and Macie Baker had the three hits. Ciara Hardy was the hard-luck losing pitcher.

Cleburne County 5, Ohatchee 1

Amber Parker shut down the Indians and Akles blasted a two-run homer for the Tigers. Clements singled and scored Ohatchee’s only run.

Horseshoe Bend 2, Jacksonville 0

The Generals picked up a couple of unearned runs to spoil a great pitching performance by Mabry.

Saks 6, Trinity 4

Johnson’s inside-the-park grand slam sparked an early six-run Saks lead. Trinity scored all its runs in the bottom of the fifth with no time left on the clock to almost get back in the game. Browning had two hits for Saks.

Piedmont 6, Wellborn 3

Piedmont used Hulsizer’s hot back to slip past the Panthers. Hulsizer drove in four runs with two singles to offset the timely hitting of Wellborn’s Carlee Mullinax, who had three straight RBI singles. Taylor Houck was also 3-for-3 for Wellborn with two runs scored.

In other games, Alexandria lost two close games to Alabama Christian (2-0) and Leeds (2-1) and fell hard to Springville (10-4).

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