E.A. Sports Today

Oxford advances

[corner-ad id=2]Lady Jackets earn first trip to fast-pitch state softball finals; Alexandria comes up short

The Oxford dugout waits eagerly for the final out that clinches its trip to the Class 6A softball championship. (Photos by Greg Stone).

The Oxford dugout waits eagerly for the final out that clinches its trip to the Class 6A softball championship. (Photos by Greg Stone).

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

The Oxford Lady Jackets earned their first fast-pitch trip to the state softball finals Saturday as they won three straight games at Sokol Park in Tuscaloosa where the Class 5A, 6A and 7A Regional Tournaments wrapped up play.

They beat Walker 4-1 to clinch the trip after beating Pinson Valley 6-0 and Gardendale 3-1 earlier in the day. They will play Wetumpka (38-7-1) in their first game noon Friday at Lagoon Park in Montgomery.

The Yellow Jackets (35-17-1) were the only Calhoun County team left standing. Alexandria went 1-1 Saturday and was eliminated by Springville 3-1 after coming from behind to beat area rival Lincoln 8-4.

Oxford came into Saturday knowing it had to win three straight to advance to the finals. The pitching of sophomores JoJo Skinner and Rylee Waldrep had only allowed three runs in the two games Friday and the Jackets needed — and got — an even better performance from them Saturday.

Pinson Valley was up first. The game was scoreless until the fourth when Morgan Whaley doubled to center and Sara Howell singled her home. Amber Dempsey and Ashlyn Miller singled to load the bases, and then Haley Lyner delivered a two-run single. Taylor Ellison then singled to right and Makenzie Trantham tripled to center to make it 6-0.

Skinner was rolling in the circle as she struck out three in the fourth, two in the fifth, three in the sixth.

Waldrep was equally impressive against Gardendale. She struck out 10, including the final out.

Liner got the offensive started with a double to center. Ellison followed with a single, stole second and came around to score on a single by Trantham to give Oxford a 2-0 lead. Trantham singled home another run in the fifth.

The Rockets scored a run in the seventh, but Waldrep shut the door.

The game with Walker was a rematch of a 1-0 game Walker won in the bottom of the seventh. Walker lost to advancing Chelsea, a team Oxford had beaten three times this season.

The Jackets were not to be denied. They got two runs in the third on hits by Whaley and Ellison. Walker chopped it to 2-1 in the fifth, but Oxford answered with two runs in the seventh on hits by Dempsey, Ellison and Trantham.

Skinner was sharp early, but Waldrep came on to pitch the seventh and retired the Vikings to send the Jackets to the Final Eight.

The Class 5A regionals was stacked with four teams ranked in the top seven and the No. 6 Valley Cubs (#6) had a tough hill to climb.

They would have to get past a Lincoln team that gave them fits during the regular season, then beat No. 4 Springville, No. 1 Hayden or No. 7 Corner to advance.

They fell behind Lincoln early 4-1 and appeared to be in trouble before coming up with four runs in the top of the fifth to pull ahead. They added two more in the sixth and one in the seventh.

But in the Springville game they just could not get any runs until the bottom of the seventh, and then only scored one. Springville would go on to defeat Corner and win the second qualifying spot in the state tournament behind Hayden.

Class 6A finals
At Lagoon Park, Montgomery
All games Friday, noon

Chelsea (18-12) vs. Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa
Southside Gadsden (36-5) vs. Daphne (30-8)
Oxford (35-17-1) vs. Wetumpka (38-7-1)
Saraland (37-7) vs. Cullman (29-13)

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