E.A. Sports Today

PV’s destiny awaits

Lady Raiders play what one player calls their best game since losing Bryant, will face Alexandria in county winner’s bracket final

Alexandria's Lauren O'Dell pulls a three-run homer down the left-field line to break a 1-1 tie. On the cover, McKinley Parris hit a three-run homer to give Pleasant Valley the lead against top-seeded Oxford. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Alexandria’s Lauren O’Dell pulls a three-run homer down the left-field line to break a 1-1 tie. On the cover, McKinley Parris hit a three-run homer to give Pleasant Valley the lead against top-seeded Oxford. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – Is it too early to start calling the Pleasant Valley softball team a team of destiny?

The Lady Raiders won their second and most important game since returning to the field after losing teammate Anna Bryant to an injury, knocking off top-seeded and second-ranked 6A Oxford 5-1 in the Calhoun County Softball Tournament Thursday night.

The victory was highlighted McKinley Parris’ game-breaking three-run homer, a two-run shot by Kara Perry (her seventh), another good pitching performance by Alisa St. John and some slick defense for the second game in a row.

Parris called it “probably the best we’ve played” since Bryant suffered a severe head injury and underwent surgery after being struck by a foul ball in the dugout during a tournament in Ardmore a week ago Friday. The team immediately pulled out of the tournament and cancelled a Monday game with Oxford.

The fourth-seeded Lady Raiders (23-11-1), ranked eighth in Class 3A, now meet second-seeded No. 5-5A Alexandria (24-9) in the winner’s bracket final Friday at 5:30 p.m. The winner heads to the championship game at 8:30.

“I don’t think it’s too early to call us a team of destiny,” Parris said. “Anna is one of our main players — our pitcher and our centerfielder, and she has an amazing bat — but since we’re playing for her it gives us more energy to step up.”

Bryant is said to be making steady progress in her recovery at a Birmingham hospital. Interim head coach Dexter Duncan wasn’t certain when she would be discharged, but Parris said if Bryant were somehow able to make it to Oxford Lake Park for Friday’s round, it would “make us even more excited and even more eager to win this for her.”

In the meantime, her parents, PV softball coach David Bryant and volleyball coach Dana Bryant, remain at her side, the team continues to rally around her absence and programs throughout the county continue to show their support.

Duncan, meanwhile, was a little reluctant after Thursday’s game to put that “team of destiny” label on his charges just yet.

“We’re not doing anything we’re not capable of already doing,” he said. “We’re just down a player – and we miss her dearly.”

Parris broke a scoreless tie with her three-run homer. Oxford pitcher Rylee Waldrep retired the first nine PV batters she faced – striking out the side on 11 pitches in the first inning — but the Lady Raiders finally got to her in the fourth.

Atleigh Brannon opened the inning with a single, but was forced on a fielder’s choice by Cheyanne Griffith. Savannah Williams singled, then Parris blasted her homer to center field.

“It was a pretty big at-bat,” Parris said. “It was really exciting. Last year we played them in our tournament and they beat us 6-5. I think it was a good feeling to come back and beat them this time, because they put us out in (the county final for) volleyball and basketball (county semifinals), so we just wanted to get revenge.”

Perry extended the lead with her two-run blast in the sixth that followed a two-out single by Parris. St. John made it stand by scattering four hits and walking two. The only run she allowed was Kaylynn Garrett’s leadoff homer in the sixth.

“I thought it was amazing to get my team a win for Anna,” Perry said. “Anna is one of our main players. Hitting is contagious and Anna is a big part of that. We know what our destiny holds, we’ve just got to finish it.”

Earlier in the day, Duncan and Piedmont coach Rachel Smith met to decide their tiebreaker for top seed and host of the area title. They decided to play it off on the field. The teams will play 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at PV with Piedmont as the home team.

Alexandria 5, Piedmont 2

The Lady Cubs topped third-seeded Piedmont behind the pitching and hitting of Lauren O’Dell. She gave up four hits and one earned run in five innings and broke a 1-1 tie in the third with a three-run homer to get her own offense back on track.

O’Dell’s two-out homer left the yard just inside the left-field foul pole and followed singles by Summer Watts and Mattie Wade. It was her first homer since blasting one against John Carroll in a March tournament in Ardmore.

“A home run is a home run, whether it goes 450 feet or 210,” O’Dell said. “To finally get that out of my bat and just seeing the ball and hitting the ball better, that’s just a big confidence booster and it’s going to help me out a lot coming up to the plate.”

In the circle O’Dell checked the Lady Bulldogs on four hits, one earned run and struck out seven.

The Lady Cubs know their next opponent is playing on an “emotional high” right now.

“They’re a pretty good team and they’ve got some drive behind them right now with their player down,” O’Dell said. “They’ve got a little fire in them and I would, too; I want to play for my teammate if she were down.”

Winner’s Bracket Linescores

Alexandria 5, Piedmont 2
Piedmont 001 01 – 2 4 1
Alexandria 103 11 – 5 7 2
WP: Lauren O’Dell. LP: Kayleigh Williams. HR: O’Dell.

Pleasant Valley 5, Oxford 1
Pleasant Valley 000 302 0 – 5 7 2
Oxford 000 001 0 – 1 4 0
WP: Alisa St. John. LP: Rylee Waldrep. HR: Mckinley Parris (PV), Kara Perry (PV), Kaylynn Garrett (O).

Thursday’s Games
Oxford 5, White Plains 0
Pleasant Valley 5, Oxford 1
Alexandria 5, Piedmont 2
Saks 8, Weaver 2 (Weaver eliminated)
White Plains 8, Faith Christian 2 (Faith eliminated)
Wellborn 6, Jacksonville 2 (Jacksonville eliminated)
Ohatchee 15, Jacksonville Christian 0 (JCA eliminated)
White Plains 6, Saks 2 (Saks eliminated)
Wellborn 9, Ohatchee 2 (Ohatchee eliminated)

Friday’s Games
Winner’s Bracket
Pleasant Valley vs. Alexandria, 5:30 p.m., Field B

Elimination Bracket
Game 17: Piedmont vs. White Plains, 4 p.m., Field C
Game 18: Oxford vs. Wellborn, 4 p.m., Field D
Game 20: Piedmont-White Plains winner vs. Oxford-Wellborn winner, 5:30 p.m., Field D
Game 21: Game 20 winner vs. Pleasant Valley-Alexandria loser, 7 p.m., Field D

Championship Game
Pleasant Valley-Alexandria winner vs. Game 21 winner, 8:30 p.m., Field B
PV-Alexandria winner vs. Game 21 winner (if necessary), 10 p.m., Field B

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