By Chad Dixon
When Smiths Station Head Softball Coach Matt Stonbraker was asked if their 12-2 win over Central on May 3 to clinch the Class 7A Area 4 title was the biggest win of his coaching career, he answered with a smile, “Not yet!”
The Lady Panthers struggled in area games in the regular season going 0-4 against Auburn and Central. They showed up in a big way going 3-0 in the area tournament with a plus 22 run differential. Smiths Station opened the tournament with a 6-5 win over the Lady Red Devils and pounded Auburn 14 -3 later that evening.
“I think we made the area games in the regular season too much about the opponent and not as much about us,” Stonbraker added.
“The focus is about us and knowing that everyone has a job to do whether its plate approach, pitching or defense. We played pretty clean defense all week. The credit goes to the girls. You can ask them. They get to come to practice and not have to.”
Teena Morgan (7-4) earned the win for Smiths Station’s first Class 7A area title in softball. She pitched five innings in a mercy rule shortened game against the Lady Red Devils. She allowed one earned run on five hits and struck out three. She has a 3.80 ERA on the season with 55 strikeouts.
“I think a lot of people underestimated us going into area tournament, but I knew from the beginning of the season that this team was something special. This is just the beginning, we still have a long road ahead of us, and as long as we keep rowing the boat as a team I think everyone’s in for a show this season,” Morgan said.
Bre Cameron’s performance on May 1 put Smiths Station in a prime spot to close out the tournament on May 3. She allowed only four earned runs over 14 innings against Central and Auburn. She struck out 12 hitters. She leads the team with a 2.08 ERA and has 88 strikeouts over 80 2/3rd innings.
Cameron’s two-run single in the bottom of the first gave the Lady Panthers a 3-1 lead. The big blow of the game came in the bottom of the second when Sydney Belcher hit a two-run homerun to extend the lead to 6-1. Olivia Sinquefield scored. She had singled an at-bat prior.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the way we performed in the area tournament as a team. Everything is finally coming together and hopefully that carries on to the regional tournament. Winning area is just the beginning of what we are hoping to accomplish this season. We are not even close to being done yet,” Sinquefield said.”
Morgan also homered in the bottom of the third with a solo shot to extend the lead to 7-2. The Lady Panthers scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth to end the game due to the run rule. Cameron hit a two-run triple and then stole home to end the game. She was 3-for-4 and drove in and scored three runs.
Smiths Station and Central begin South-Central Regional play tomorrow in Troy. The Lady Panthers will play Enterprise at 10 a.m. ET and Central will play Prattville. The winners of those two games will play each other at 5:30 p.m. ET and the losers will match up as well.
“We respect Central. They are a great team and it would be great to match up with them again. Our mindset did not change in the area tournament from Tuesday and Thursday. I have to give so much credit to my assistant coaches. The biggest thing is we have to keep hitting to be successful,” Stonbraker stated.
Smiths Station Batting Leaders
Batting Average: Bre Cameron (.446), Lexi Webb (.430), Olivia Sinquefield (.405)
On-Base Percentage: Cameron (.483), Sinquefield (.463), Webb (.460)
Runs: Sinquefield (43), Sydney Belcher (37), Webb (30)
RBI: Alexis Cosgrove (31), Belcher (30), Sinquefield (29)
Smiths Station Pitching Leaders
Wins: Paige Downing (9), Teena Morgan (7), Cameron (4)
Strikeouts: Cameron (88), Downing (79), Morgan (55)
WHIP: Cameron (1.45), Downing (1.53), Morgan (1.61)