HAMPTON - Freshman Caitlin Williams and sophomore Melody Belcher played like seasoned veterans with the game on the line, providing the key hits to give Alcovy a 1-0 win over Stockbridge in the Region 4-AAAA Tournament on Thursday at Lovejoy Park.
In the bottom of the seventh, Williams' single got things started. After Stockbridge pitcher Tiffany Cain got her ninth strikeout of the game, Kelly Azar and Dallas Hardin loaded the bases.
Belcher swung at the ball batting left-handed once before moving to the other side of the batter's box. Hitting right-handed, she smacked a line drive just over second baseman Jessie Jenkins' glove to plate Williams with the winning run.
With the win, Alcovy secured no worse than a third-place finish in the Region 4-AAAA. The Lady Tigers will try to improve their seeding today at 4:30 p.m. against Griffin, which lost to Ola 4-3.
The winner plays Ola at 6:30 p.m. for the region championship with the if game to follow.
Even though the Lady Tigers got the
game-winning hit when they needed it, that was not the case throughout the game.
Alcovy left seven runners stranded earlier in the game, including three on third base and two on second.
"We left too many runners on base but sometimes you have to have a game like that to get you back on track," Alcovy coach Casey Bates said. "We left too many runners on base in crucial situations."
In the second inning, Alcovy's Jasmine Tolen tried to score when Stockbridge bobbled the ball. Unfortunately, the ball bounced back to the outfielder, who made a perfect throw to the plate.
"Any other time the ball would've bounced the other way. But they got a good bounce and they made a perfect throw and bang, bang, she was out," Bates said. "Nine out of 10 times, she'd be safe at the plate."
Alcovy had another chance to score in the third with bases loaded and one out before a line drive to the pitcher and a force out at third ended the threat.
Alcovy also left runners on third base in the fourth and fifth innings.
Of course, Alcovy was not the only team unable to score.
Stockbridge had a runner on second base with one in the sixth inning, but Hardin was able to get the next two batters to pop out.
Then, in the top of the seventh, Stockbridge loaded the bases with one out.
Hardin struck out her ninth batter before Lady Luck raised its head. After Hardin threw her second wild pitch, catcher Andrea Melton forced Lyndsey Deiters back to third. However, Shanice Jones was at second where she was tagged out for the final out.
"Dallas is not a strikeout pitcher, but she had a few tonight," Bates said. "She kept her composure by throwing strikes and our defense kept their composure making plays behind her."
Hardin finished the game allowing no hits while fanning nine batters and hitting on batter.
Offensively, Hardin was 3-for-4 with a triple, while Belcher and Williams were 2-for-3.
"We played good defense and we got the hits when we needed. Tonight they saw that in a close game they could get the job done," Bates said. "Hitting is contagious, good defense is contagious and winning's contagious."
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org