Cal­houn wins thriller for 7th con­sec­u­tive Re­gion 6-AAA cham­pi­onship

Calhoun Times - - Sports Saturday - By Tyler Ser­ritt TSer­[email protected]­hounTimes.com

Af­ter a pair of down-to-the-wire reg­u­lar sea­son games with each side pick­ing up a one-run win, and a tightly-con­tested post­sea­son game on Wed­nes­day, it seemed al­most in­evitable that the re­gion tour­na­ment cham­pi­onship would come down to a fi­nal clash be­tween the Cal­houn Lady Jack­ets and Sonoraville Lady Phoenix, the two most com­plete teams in Re­gion 6-AAA.

At the con­clu­sion of a wild and wind­ing seven in­nings of what proved to be the most ex­hil­a­rat­ing con­test be­tween the two squads yet, it was the Lady Jack­ets (22-7) who stood vic­to­ri­ous at 5-4 af­ter the dust had set­tled, se­cur­ing its sev­enth con­sec­u­tive Re­gion 6-AAA ti­tle and a No.1 seed in the AAA state play­offs.

It was ad­di­tion­ally fit­ting that the fourth meet­ing of these two teams would come down to a de­ci­sive and dra­matic sev­enth and fi­nal in­ning. Down 4-3 head­ing ap­proach­ing the fi­nal frame, Cal­houn head coach Di­ane Smith turned to pinch hit­ter Malysha Win­ston, who de­liv­ered with a sin­gle to ig­nite the come­back ef­fort. Af­ter an Espee Reyes sacri­fice, and a use­ful Car­lie Hen­der­son ground out to ad­vance pinch-run­ner Mat­tie Jane Mash­burn, the pres­sure was on for Erin Barnes.

Barnes re­sponded in a big way, push­ing through a clutch, two-out sin­gle into right field to bring in Mash­burn and knot the score.

Cal­houn wasn’t con­tent with a tie. Af­ter a pair of walks to Lyndi Rae Davis and Molly Walker loaded the bases, Au­drey Wil­banks sealed the win and the cham­pi­onship by slic­ing a RBI-sin­gle into right field to knock in Barnes.

“It is just an awe­some feel­ing, and I have never been more proud of these girls as I am right now,” Smith said. “Com­ing into the bot­tom of the sev­enth down one is a scary sit­u­a­tion, but I have faith in this group and they came through for us when it mat­tered most.”

“I’m es­pe­cially proud of the way that Erin and Au­drey stepped up for us. Au­drey was strug­gling a lit­tle bit at the plate be­fore that at-bat, but she told me be­fore she stepped in there in the sev­enth that she’s got this, and she de­liv­ered in the big­gest mo­ment of the sea­son. I couldn’t be more happy with the way that they stepped up for us.”

The Lady Jack­ets wouldn’t have been in a po­si­tion to rally if it wasn’t for an im­pact­ful con­tri­bu­tion from its clean-up hit­ter Davis, who smashed a solo home­run to even the score at 3-3 back in the third in­ning.

“Lyndi Rae has been a prob­lem for pitch­ers all sea­son,” Smith said. “She’s a beast, and we wouldn’t be where we were in this game or in this sea­son with­out her in the mid­dle of the lineup.”

Also chip­ping in of­fen­sively for Cal­houn was Lona Sims, who rocked a dou­ble in the fourth and Walker, who knocked a base hit through a gap in the third.

The Lady Jack­ets were also po­si­tioned to win thanks to an­other steady per­for­mance from Mag­gie McBrayer. De­spite log­ging 21 in­nings pitched over three days, McBrayer al­lowed four runs on seven hits while strik­ing out nine.

“Mag­gie was a war­rior for us this week,” Smith said. “I ap­proached her early in the week and ask her if she’s ready to go, and she as­sured me she was ready. I’m so im­pressed with the way that she was able to bat­tle for three straight nights for us.”

The Lady Phoenix turned to fresh­man Tay­lor Long in the cir­cle, with Long show­ing the team a glimpse into a bright fu­ture by strik­ing out six and al­low­ing two runs (one earned) on three hits in 3 1-1 in­nings of work. Sonoraville (22-5) called upon Kris­ten Davis to close the game, and was im­pres­sive in the loss, al­low­ing three runs on four hits while com­pil­ing three strike­outs.

De­spite com­ing up just short on the score­board, the Lady Phoenix of­fense was still po­tent and pro­duc­tive.

Kris­ten Davis opened up the scor­ing by smash­ing a home run in the first in­ning to give Sonoraville the early edge. The Lady Phoenix also scratched across runs in the fourth, off of a Grif­fin Holden RBI-dou­ble, and the sixth, off of a Emma Gar­land RBI-sin­gle that ap­peared at the time to en­sure a win.

“It was a to­tal team ef­fort to­day,” Smith said. “Ev­ery sin­gle player that got in there con­trib­uted. We will need that go­ing for­ward.”

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