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Elite eight and off to state

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Considering the Montgomery Catholic Lady Knights had allowed two runs or less in eight of their previous nine games, the T.R. Miller Lady Tigers did not figure to be able to make many mistakes and survive.
The Lady Tigers may not have been flawless, but they were good enough to squeeze out victories of 2-0 and 2-1 at Saturday's Sub-State championship round at the Brewton YMCA Park and earned their first ever state tournament berth.
"The games played out like we thought they would. We knew we probably weren't going to get many runs, but we were able to scratch out just enough to win," T.R. Miller coach Jamie Riggs.
Riggs and the Lady Tigers can largely thank senior righthander Rebekah Neal and junior righthander Halie Ellis for the ticket that will take them to Montgomery's Lagoon Park Thursday when they open up state tournament play at 9 a.m. against Danville.
Neal was touched for just one first inning single in her shutout victory, while Ellis tossed a four-hitter. Ellis was actually just one out away from a two-hit shutout in the nightcap when Montgomery Catholic (10-11) squeezed out its lone run.
The turning point of the opener and perhaps the entire day probably occurred in the top of the first inning of the first game.
With one out, Amanda Beesley walked, Jenna Golsen singled (for Montgomery Catholic's lone hit) and Megan Holland reached on an infield error to load the bases.
Neal got the Lady Tigers out of the tough spot unscathed when she struck out Lori Vercelli and Rebekah Warren grounded out to shortstop Leigh Cooper.
"That was a key moment. We knew it wuld be tough to score and they had a chance to jump on us right off the bat. It was a big momentum boost to get out of that inning unscored," Riggs said.
Like Neal, Montgomery Catholic pitcher Abby Beesley also proved to be a tough nut to crack. Beesley only gave up four hits and faced the minimum in four of six innings.
Two of those hits came in the bottom of the third inning when T.R. Miller (18-6) scored both of its runs.
Charity Coleman led off the frame with a single. Haley Rilling not only laid down a successful sacrifice bunt that got Coleman into scoring position, but an error at first base allowed Rilling to reach and sent Coleman over to third base.
That turned out to be a big play. After Rilling stole second base, Ellis beat out an infield single that scored Coleman with the game's first run.
Cooper followed with a little dribbler out in front of the plate. As Cooper was thrown out at first base, Rilling scored to make it 2-0. Ellis also tried to score on the plate although she was cut down at the plate to complete a double play.
That turned out to be the last serious threat for either team. Beesley settled down and faced the minimum over her final three innings on the mound.
Meanwhile Neal set down the Lady Knights in order in both the fourth and fifth innings. She worked around a two-out walk in the sixth and a one-out walk in the seventh inning to get the win.
The Lady Tigers had to deal with Beesley's sister, Amanda Beesley, on the mound in game two. Like her sibling, she gave up just four hits.
However, T.R. Miller was able to string together three of those in succession with two out in the top of the first inning.
Jamie Peacock slapped an infield single and moved up a base on another single by Neal. Terri Lynne Peacock drilled a single into the outfield and that scored her sister to make it 1-0.
A brief lapse in control by Amanda Beesley contributed to T.R. Miller's other run in the third inning.
With one out Cooper walked and moved into scoring over to second base on a single by Jamie Peacock. Both Cooper and Peacock moved up a base on a passed ball. The passed ball turned into a huge play, as it allowed Cooper to score
when Neal grounded out to shortstop.
For six innings, Ellis pretty much cruised through the Montgomery Catholic lineup with the exception of the fifth inning. In that frame, she gave up a leadoff single to Amanda Beesley and a one-out walk to Holland. Ellis got out of the jam when she fanned Vercelli and Warren grounded out to Emily Layton at third base.
Ellis appeared she would also mow down the Lady Knights in the seventh inning. She got Vercelli to pop out to third base and Warren tapped back to Ellis, who threw her out at first bse for the second out.
Olivia Veres hit a grounder to Cooper at shortstop for what looked would be the third out, but a brief bobble allowed Veres to beat Cooper's throw to first base by a hair.
Lauren Starr kept the game alive with a single and Kate Griffith singled off Ellis. That hit scored Veres that made it 2-1. It also put the tying run in scoring position at second base and put the go-ahead run on at first base.
The Lady Knights' rally would go no farther. Ellis got Abby Beesley to hit a grounder to Rilling at second base, who fired the ball over to Coleman at first base for the final out.
"This is a great accomplishment for our players and our program. Playing in the state
See LADY TIGERS Page 7A tournament will be a new experience for us. It's a great way for our three seniors (Neal, Jamie Peacock and Lacey Lucas) to go out. It's also a valuable experience for our underclassmen," Riggs said.
The Lady Tigers will play a Danville team that needed three games to oust Colbert County 7-3, 5-10, 11-0 at its sub-state round.
Win or lose, T.R. Miller will follow that 9 a.m. contest with another game Thursday at 1:30 p.m. against either Springville or West Blocton. The state tournament is double elimination.
Game one
Mon. Catholic 000 000 0 – 0 1 1
T.R. Miller 002 000 X – 2 4 2
Game two
T.R. Miller 101 000 0 – 2 4 1
Mon. Catholic 000 000 1 – 1 4 0