E.A. Sports Today

Playing hardball

Cleburne County turn some movie magic into 3 one-run wins for first-ever regional softball crown, first trip to state since 2013

At Choccolocco Park, Oxford
Wednesday’s 9 a.m. games
Rogers (43-11) vs. Hamilton (29-17), Field 1
LAMP (29-14) vs. Cleburne County (32-10), Field 2
Etowah (32-9) vs. Alabama Christian (25-19), Field 3
Haleyville (29-17) vs. North Jackson (36-15-1), Field 4

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

MONTGOMERY – Opposing teams are quickly learning the Cleburne County softball team is not one to be taken lightly. The Lady Tigers have been playing Hardball this postseason.

Cleburne County won its first regional softball title in school history Saturday when it beat Curry 1-0 at Lagoon Park for the Class 4A East Regional crown.

The Lady Tigers (32-10) will play South Region No. 2 LAMP (29-14) in their state tournament opener Wednesday 9 a.m. in Oxford’s Choccolocco Park. It’s their first trip to state since 2013.

“It’s been one of our goals,” first-year Lady Tigers coach Christina Ezell said. “I know the history about it, but I haven’t lived through it like some of the coaches and players. It was one of the goals. Our next goal is to win the state.”

The Lady Tigers are 5-0 this postseason and it can all be traced back to a team bonding exercise right before the area tournament when they got together to screen Hardball, a Keanu Reeves vehicle with a young Michael B. Jordan in the cast that was made before any of their current players were even born.

“Since that moment we’ve been living in the moment and doing the things we need to do, and that movie followed us through it all,” Ezell said. “It’s a good movie. They’ve never seen it. Everybody has seen League of Their Own and Rookie of the Year. It’s something none of them have seen and I felt why not.”

The Lady Tigers were 27-10 when they saw film after splitting a doubleheader with Oxford. They haven’t lost since. They won three one-run games in the regional.

They scored their run against Curry in the top of the seventh on eighth-grader Kaden Pritchett’s two-out RBI pinch single to right. Jayci Boozer and Kendall Houston got the rally started with back-to-back one-out singles.

“She’s a backup shortstop and most of the time is a courtesy runner,” Ezell said of her decision to deploy Pritchett in that situation. “I talked with my coaching staff and we had already discussed the situations we may come into and what we’d do. We got to that situation and it was the right thing to do.”

Curry threatened in the bottom of the seventh, getting the tying run to second base with two outs, but Boozer stranded the runner to complete a three-hit shutout. She struck out 12.

In three regional starts Boozer gave up 11 hits, four runs and struck out 35. She threw 328 pitches in the three games, 227 for strikes.

“She did a great job,” Ezell said. “Even in this last game, that’s the best game she’s thrown all year. She had command of all her pitches.”

At Lagoon Park, Montgomery
Winner’s bracket finals
Cleburne County 1, Curry 0
Cleburne Co.      000 000 1 – 1 6 0

Curry                    000 000 0 – 1 3 0
WP: Jayci Boozer. LP: Alena Howse.

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