E.A. Sports Today

Birthday blast

Lincoln, Cleburne County score big wins in area tourney openers; Lady Bears’ Mitchell celebrates birthday with walk-off grand slam

Savannah Sands gave up three hits in Lincoln’s 10-0 area tournament win over Talladega. On the cover, Victoria Mitchell hit her seventh home run of the season on her 17th birthday. (Special photos)

At Lincoln
Monday’s games
Cleburne County 16, Clay Central 0
Lincoln 10, Talladega 0
Clay Central 18, Talladega 0
Tuesday’s games
Cleburne County at Lincoln, 2 p.m.
Clay Central vs. Cleburne County-Lincoln loser, 4 p.m.
Championship game, 6 p.m.
Wednesday’s game
Championship game (if necessary), 6 p.m.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

LINCOLN — Victoria Mitchell was supposed to be celebrating her birthday and she was the one giving out the gifts.

Mitchell, a junior catcher, hit her team-leading seventh homer of the season on her 17th birthday Monday, a three-run blast in the first inning that helped send sixth-ranked Lincoln to a 10-0 victory over Talladega in the Class 5A Area 10 softball tournament.

It wasn’t the first Mitchell had a little extra icing on her cake. She also homered on her 14th birthday, also in the area tournament, but that time against Munford.

“That one felt pretty good because it was only like the third one I ever hit,” she said. “This felt pretty good.”

The win moved the Lady Bears into Tuesday’s 2 p.m. winner’s bracket final against Cleburne County. The Lady Tigers took down Clay Central 16-0 and the Lady Vols later eliminated Talladega 18-0.

Mitchell’s homer was the highlight of a six-run first inning that got the Lady Bears off and running. She brought home Kam Beasley and Taylor Houck with her after Victoria Sands and Carlee Mullinax had scored earlier on pitches.

“That was a birthday home run,” Lincoln coach Shea Monroe said. “She’s been swinging the bat real well lately. She’s a power hitter, she’s going to get her home runs, that’s the name of the game for her.

“We’ve got a few girls with power and she’s one of them. It just make it a little more sweeter it’s her birthday.”

What wasn’t so sweet from Monroe’s perspective was what happened next. The Lady Bears took control of the game out of the gate and appeared primed to run-rule the Lady Tigers much earlier than they did, but they didn’t get anything in the second and only got two runs after their first four runners reached base in the third.

“We’ve got to keep playing hard, we’ve got to keep progressing; at this point in the season you want to be peaking,” Monroe said. “I feel like were playing really good right now, but I felt like we got a little sluggish there in the second and third inning. A 10-0 win I’ll take every time, but that second and third inning lull we can’t let happen.”

Mitchell ripped a double in her second at bat. Victoria Sands also had two hits. It was Sands’ bloop single in the fifth that ended the game. Savannah Sands pitched and allowed three singles.

Cleburne County 16, Clay Central 0: The Lady Tigers set the tone for a big day of scoring with six runs in the first inning.

Kiara Akles got the inning going with a long three-run homer and Skylar Shierling capped it with a three-run triple. Then, Chelsea Parker got into the act. She was one of three Cleburne County hitters who went 3-for-3 in the game and drove in six runs with a two-run single and a walk-off grand slam in the fourth.

“I thought we hit the ball real good today,” Lady Tigers coach Ron Ervin said. “I think the biggest thing they did is they were selective, they were picking good pitches to hit. Sometimes we get a little anxious and we’re up there just trying to crush it and we’re chasing bad pitches. We’re really focused on hitting good pitches. They stuck with the plan and that was big for them today.”

Mallory Nolen and Akles also were 3-for-3. Rylee Hiett had a two-run single in the second inning to extend the lead to 8-0. Caitlyn Caffee, Hiett and Shierling had two hits apiece.

Akles also set the tone for strong winning pitching inside the circle. She was pitching for the first time this season against the Lady Vols she gave up two hits in four innings.

Hope Crawford had a bunt single in the first and Lauren Phillips had a double in the third that put two runners in scoring position with no outs, but Akles got out of that jam with one of her five strikeouts, an infield pop and a fly to center.

Kiara Akles hit a three-run homer in the first inning and pitched a three-hit shutout in the circle for Cleburne County. (Courtesy photos)

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