No. 1 Sumiton Christian got the best of the No. 3-ranked Lynn Bears for the fourth time this season, pulling away late for an 8-1 victory at Tuscaloosa’s Sokol Park.
The Eagles, who finished tied for fifth at last year’s State Softball Tournament, are looking for a better finish in 2014.
“We were young last year. Now we’ve got more experience. We are more focused on the team. This group never stops fighting,” Sumiton Christian coach Jessica Aderholt said. “I think they are ready. We’ve played hard all year. I feel really good about the way we are playing.”
Sumiton Christian (46-13-1) takes on No. 5 Brantley at 9 a.m. Thursday at Montgomery’s Lagoon Park.
Eagles’ senior second baseman Katlyn Sides feels confident in Sumiton Christian heading into this state tournament.
“In past years we would look to the final game and we wouldn’t even make it to the final. That’s what we’ve learned,” Sides said. “We have more of a team atmosphere this year. If I don’t hit, somebody else will pick me up. We’re really relentless, honestly. If we play together and stay focused, nobody can beat us.”
Saturday’s Sumiton Christian-Lynn matchup, the fourth between the schools, remained close until the final inning when a five-run surge by the Eagles provided plenty of insurance for Jenna Ergle and the Sumiton Christian defense.
Ergle proved vital at the plate and in the circle — giving up eight hits, a walk, a run and striking out six batters in seven innings of action.
At the plate, she went 2 for 3 with three runs scored, four RBIs and two doubles.
Katlyn Sides had a good performance, going 2 for 3 with two RBIs, a triple and two stolen bases. Kendell Beth Sides, Kirsten Click, Abbie Brewster and Jessie Boone added hits to the offensive performance.
Lynn’s Tiffany Self gave up eight hits, five walks and struck out three batters in the loss.
Lynn’s batting production was led by Reagan Tittle, who went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a double, while Self was 2 for 3 with a run scored.
Emma Easley, Holly Murray, Brooke Harris and Mac Tidwell all recorded hits.
Ergle drove Kendal Hamm across the plate on an RBI double at the top of the first inning before crossing the plate herself on an error for the 2-0 Sumiton Christian advantage. Katlyn Sides sent Ergle home on an RBI triple in the third inning to extend the lead to 3-0 for Sumiton Christian.
Tittle got the Bears on the scoreboard by batting Self in on a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning to draw within two, 3-1.
Following a scoreless sixth inning, the Eagles’ bats exploded in the seventh inning, with Ergle driving in three runs on a double, followed by RBI hits by Boone and Katlyn Sides to secure the 8-1 final.
“Jenna’s hit was tremendous. It just brought us back to life,” Sides said.
Sumiton Christian is 4-1 against Lynn this season.
Lynn 9, Tharptown 2
For the first time in four seasons, the Lynn Bears will make the trip to the AHSAA State Softball Tournament next week — thanks to a 9-2 victory over the Tharptown Wildcats that allowed the program to secure the North Central Region’s Class 1A No. 2 qualifying spot.
Lynn (45-9) takes on No. 4 Kinston at 9 a.m. Thursday in its State Tournament opener.
In a rematch of Friday afternoon’s winner’s bracket battle, Lynn broke a 2-2 scoring deadlock with a five-run fourth inning, then held off attempts at a Tharptown rally with good pitching and defense.
Tiffany Self picked up the win for Lynn, giving up eight hits, two runs and two walks while striking out four batters.
Kendra Richard went 2 for 3 with two runs scored, while Holly Murray was 2 for 4 with two runs scored, an RBI and a triple. Reagan Tittle was 1 for 2 with an RBI and a double, Brooke Harris went 1 for 2 with a run scored and Self was 1 for 1 with a run scored and two RBIs. Emma Easley was 1 for 3 with a run scored, three RBIs and a homerun.
“There’s a lot of excitement — and to be honest — a lot of relief in these girls earning the right to play in the state tournament. It’s the only way for this group to end a season,” Lynn coach Philip Smith said. “This team is the most successful group that we’ve ever had at Lynn — they finished as state runner-up when they were younger and we just haven’t been able to get back to Montgomery. To fight the way we did today made me very proud of these girls. We’re going to enjoy the experience, but we definitely will be aiming for more next week.”
The Bears posted a 2-0 lead after Easley and Murray drove in runners in the first inning, only to have the Wildcats answer with two runs of their own in the second inning to tie the game at 2-2.
In the bottom of the fourth, Self sent two runners home with a double, followed by an RBI double by Tittle. Easley ended the scoring with a two-run homerun to allow Lynn to regain the lead, 7-2.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Murray scored on a passed ball and Kelci McGough drove in a runner for the 9-2 final.