E.A. Sports Today

Birthday surprise

Alexandria avoids coin toss, earns area top seed and tournament hosting rights with walk-off win on coach’s birthday

Freshman Brenlee Sparks connects on Alexandria’s game-winning hit against Moody in the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday.

Thursday’s games
Alexandria 3, Moody 2
Handley 13, Munford 4
Ohatchee 11, Wellborn 1
Oxford 7, Southside 4
Piedmont 16, Cleburne County 2
Pleasant Valley 19, Weaver 5
Wadley 13, Faith Christian 0
White Plains 11, Cherokee County 1

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Brian Hess never did like coin tosses, and now he doesn’t have to worry about it.

The Alexandria softball coach avoided the thing he dislikes most Thursday when the bottom of his lineup delivered in the seventh inning to give the Lady Cubs a 3-2 win over Moody and the top seed in next week’s Class 5A Area 11 Tournament.

Had the Lady Cubs not pulled it out, they would have engaged in a coin toss with the Lady Blue Devils on the spot for the No. 1 seed and area tournament hosting rights.

“I am 0-4 in coin tosses,” Hess said. “As a matter of fact, I told (assistant coach) Brad (Burgess) go ahead and get you a coin and you can go over there and flip. Somebody always seems to pick us up.”

They played “I Need A Hero” over the public address system before the Lady Cubs came to bat in the seventh and Brenlee Sparks answered the call. The freshman left fielder, the No. 9 hitter in the order, ripped a liner into left field with one out to score Clancy Bright with the game-winning run.

Bright got the rally started with an infield single and was sacrificed into scoring position by Pressley Slaton.

“I was having fun up there,” said Sparks, who said she didn’t hear the ‘Hero’ song over the PA between innings. “I knew my nerves had to go away and it was just all going to be through God. It was tight situation and I knew I had to come through for my team.” 

The Lady Cubs (36-7) rallied twice to tie the game and dodged a threat in the seventh inning before winning it in the bottom of the inning – on Hess’ 51st birthday.

Moody scored an unearned run in the top of the third and Alexandria tied it in the bottom on Rylee Gattis’ RBI double. The Lady Devils took a 2-0 lead in the fifth on Taylor Rogers’ solo homer off the scoreboard and the Lady Cubs retied it on Chloe Gattis’ RBI single in the sixth.

Between the ground ball that scored Moody’s first run and Rogers’ homer, Rylee Gattis struck out seven batters in a row. The visitors threatened in the seventh, putting the go-ahead run at third with one out and two runners in scoring position with two, but Gattis put out the fire with another strikeout.

“It was frustrating at times and nerve-wracking, but I knew we would pull it together as a team,” Sparks said.

Before batting in the fifth, Hess brought his team back into the locker room, and not to distribute birthday cupcakes (that came later). It was for the pep talk that changed their game.

“I told them you’re going to have games like this, we’ve got to get back to being us,” he said. “We’re chasing balls out of the zone, we’re helping (Moody’s pitcher) out. Go back to being selective.

“I tell folks all the time if we put up runs first we kind of settle into the game and we kind of go. But if we don’t score first we start pressing and I thought we were pressing today.”

The Lady Cubs returned to get the tying run in the sixth inning and the winning run in the seventh.

“Being in these games makes you playoff ready,” Hess said. “I’m proud of them for the way they fought back. We could have easily folded, but we didn’t.”

White Plains 11, Cherokee County 1: Callie Richardson went 3-for-3 with two homers and Leighton Arnold went 3-for-4 with one as the Lady Wildcats (28-7) clinched the No. 1 seed and hosting rights for next week’s Class 4A Area 9 tournament.

Richardson hit a two-run homer in the first inning and was the front end of back-to-back homers with Arnold in the fourth. Arnold also pitched the first four innings, allowing two hits and striking out four.

Oxford 7, Southside 4: The Lady Jackets carried the momentum of the previous night’s walk-off win into five first-inning runs to take control of the game. Kannon Slaughter delivered the big blow of the inning, a two-out grand slam to give Oxford the lead.

Berkley Mooney pitched a complete game in the circle, giving up two earned runs and striking out seven.

Southside got within 5-3 in the fifth, but Oxford extended it out to 7-3 on Ashlyn Burns’ two-run double in the sixth.

Ohatchee 11, Wellborn 1: Savannah Reaves went 3-for-4 with four RBIs, Kylee Barnes homered twice and Mackenzie Luna homered once to lead Ohatchee’s 13-hit attack. Wellborn took a 1-0 lead in the second on Hannah Grubbs’ RBI double, but then it was all Ohatchee. All three Ohatchee homers led off innings.

Piedmont 16, Cleburne County 2: Emily Farmer homered and Cacey Brothers and Sarah Goss drove in four runs apiece to lead the Lady Bulldogs’ 17-hit attack. Farmer also pitched and gave up just three hits over five innings.

Farmer, Brothers, Goss, Savannah Smith and Jenna Calvert all had two hits for Piedmont. Armoni Perry went 3-for-3. The 8-9-1-2-3-4 spots in the Piedmont lineup were a combined 13-for-18 with 13 RBIs.

Pleasant Valley 19, Weaver 5: The Lady Raiders erupted for eight-run innings twice. Their first eight hitters of the game all reached base and scored, and eight of their first nine reached and scored in the fifth.

Six PV players had at least two hits and six drove in at least two runs. Taylor Nix and Lily Henry both had two hits and three RBIs. Rylee Haynes went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Haaylie Lee and Rebekah Gannaway both had two hits and two RBIs.

Wadley 13, Faith Christian 0: Cailin Birdsong went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a leadoff homer in the fourth and Payton Calhoun gave up two singles over five innings for Wadley. Rylee Holloway went 2-for-2 with three RBIs and Amya Brown and Ella Towler drove in two runs apiece.

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