By Ronald Frazier
Edgewood’s Haylee Johnson’s booming bat was too much for Glenwood to overcome as the Lady Gators fell just short of a 4th straight class AAA softball tournament title as they lost to the Lady Wildcats 8-7 in eight innings in the title game series to take second place in 2018 at Lagoon Park in Montgomery.
Johnson hit four two-run home runs in the two games against Glenwood in the games played Saturday and led her team to their first title since 2014. Edgewood was the last team to win the state before the Lady Gators run of three straight from 2015-2017. Her total increased her season’s total to 10 as she nearly doubled her round tripper output.
“Going into the tournament I felt we were the best team but Edgewood got hot at the right time and this weekend they were the best. Seems like everything we threw up there they hit and hit it hard,” said Glenwood coach Dusty Perdue after the presentation of the second place trophy.
“We just ran into a buzz saw as Edgewood got hot at the right time,” he added.
Perdue’s words were true as the Lady Wildcats had four extra base hits in the first game and nine extra base hits in the first game played in the winner’s bracket game played at 10:00 a.m.
Overall the Lady Gators were 3-2 in the tournament and finished the year at 51-12-1, the second year in a row Glenwood surpassed 50 wins. Edgewood was 43-18 on the season.
“We knew coming in the path would be through Edgewood and Bessemer Academy as I felt those were the best three teams in the state and all of them are in our region,” Perdue analyzed after the first day.
Glenwood opened the tournament against Region 2 #4 seed Hooper Academy on May 4th and took a 6-1 win to advance and send the Lady Colts into the loser’s bracket.
Ashley Gallant pitched a complete game win and struck out nine but did issue three walks and had to use 114 pitches to complete the win.
Glenwood put the game away early as they batted around in the first inning, scoring five runs for a 5-0 lead but two more hits and one more run the rest of the way,
“We did not play well except the first inning. Too many fly balls and not patient enough at the plate the rest of the way,” said Perdue of the win.”And Ashley threw too many pitches.”
After the Hooper win, Glenwood manufactured its first big comeback against Bessemer Academy, an 11-8 slugfest win by the Lady Gators.
As the day grew hotter, Bessemer Academy’s bats got hot and a 4-2 lead by Glenwood was erased as the Lady Rebels scored six runs and sent 11 batters to the plate and chased Gallant from the mound. The explosion gave Bessemer an 8-4 win before Ariana Pinder came in and got the third out.
It was not only Bessemer’s bats that got hot as Glenwood also did their damage in the bottom of the 6th. Glenwood countered Bessemer’s six runs with a seven run inning and also sent 11 batters to the plate and the 8-4 deficit became an 11-8 win.
Perdue admitted that he felt the heat got to both pitchers in the game as both starters had already pitched complete game wins earlier for their teams.
“It has been a cool spring and we haven’t had that kind of heat. I felt fatigue got to both pitchers,” Perdue said.
“Hope got a big hit and Mae Durham got a big single as everyone did a much better job at the plate and we lived to fight another day,” Perdue said after the big win. “I liked way the girls responded under pressure.”
Gullatt sparked the seven-run inning with a two-run home run. It was the third year in a row that Gullatt has hit a home run in the state softball tournament. Carlena Hampton was also two for three with three runs scored and an RBI double after going two for three with two RBI in the Hooper game.
The win put the Gators in the 10:00 am winner’s bracket on May 5th against the Edgewood Lady Wildcats and that’s when Brown started her home run barrage.
In the 14-6 Edgewood win, Brown hit three two-run home runs, one off Gallant and two off Kayson Boatner. In fact Gallant did not retire a batter in that first game and did not pitch the rest of the day.
Glenwood did have nine hits against Edgewood but none were for extra bases in the loss as the Lady Gators scored all six of their runs in the first three innings. Edgewood scored in every inning of the game.
“We just took a whipping,” was all Perdue would say after the game as his team had to return right back to the diamond in the loser’s bracket final against Pike Liberal Arts.
The Lady Patriots held off a late Bessemer rally to defeat the Lady Rebels 5-3 and earn the final loser’s bracket berth against Glenwood.
Two Lady Gators earned top player honors in the 5-0 victory over the Lady Colts to send Glenwood into the title series against Edgewood for their third game of the day.
Kayson Boatner hit two home runs and drove in three with those homers to spark the hitting while surprise 8th grader starter Ariana Pinder pitched a great game for the Lady Gators.
After picking up the win against Bessemer in relief on the 4th, she came in and pitched a complete game five-hit shutout over Hooper, and allowing only three singles, two of which did not leave the infield. It was her second pitching win of the tournament.
“She pitched a great game for us when we needed it,” said Perdue of his young starter.
Glenwood then went in against the Lady Wildcats needing to win two games to take the title but fell short in extra innings by an 8-7 score. That game was also not without its drama.
With Glenwood down to its final at bat in the 7th inning and trailing 6-1, the Lady Gators mounted an exciting comeback, scoring five runs and sending 11 players to the plate to tie the game at 6-6. Boatner’s two run single sparked the rally as only a great diving catch by Brown at third with the bases loaded finally stopped Glenwood in the inning.
In the 8th, Glenwood scored a run and again had the bases loaded when Neely Austin’s line drive was caught by a diving catch by left fielder Kelly Johnson to prevent any more scoring. Edgewood’s Emma Brown then singled to right to score two runs, in the bottom of the 8th and the Lady Wildcats had their title.