Curtain comes down on Lady Tigers
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
As the rain-soaked T.R. Miller Lady Tigers walked off the field for the final time this season, the sun started to peek through clouds.
That could have been viewed as a bit ironic since their just completed game had been played in steady rain since the first inning and caused some problems for both teams.
Then again, maybe the rays of sunshine were a symbol of what the Lady Tigers had accomplished this season despite a first day exit at the Class 3A state softball tournament at Montgomery's Lagoon Park Thursday.
T.R. Miller's season came to an end when it dropped a 9-8, 11-inning decision to the West Blocton Lady Tigers in an elimination bracket game. Earlier in the day T.R. Miller opened up the tournament with a 9-2 loss to the Danville Lady Hawks.
"We don't have anything to be ahsamed of. We had a great season. I thought our girls played as hard as they could today," T.R. Miller coach Jamie Riggs said.
While the Lady Tigers (18-8) did take the two-and-out path, they did so with an improbable comeback in their elimination bracket game against West Blocton (27-12).
In a field filled with top notch pitching, the Lady Tigers dug what seemed to be an improbable hole to climb out when they spotted West Blocton a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning.
Twelve outs away from elimination and having been held hitless during the first three innings, T.R. Miller's departure looked like all but a formality.
Something happened to the Lady Tigers in the top of the fourth inning. Their bats suddenly came to life when Jamie Peacock, Rebekah Neal and Terri Lynne Peacock all singled in succession to load the bases with nobody out.
Courtney Krehbiel and Emily Layton both got a run in on fielder's choices and then Haley Rilling reached on an infield error that plated another run to make it 5-3. Halie Ellis erased the rest of West Blocton's lead with a two-run single that tied the game at 5-5. Leigh Cooper then gave T.R. Miller its first lead of the tournament when she hit an RBI single that put the Lady Tigers up 6-5.
Just like the wet ball they had to play with, T.R. Miller found out holding on to a lead was a difficult thing to do.
West Blocton erased the first of three T.R. Miller leads in the bottom of the fourth inning when an infield error, a wild pitch and Rebekah Pierson's RBI single off Lady Tigers pitcher Halie Ellis tied the game at 6-6.
T.R. Miller put itself in position to win the game when it scored the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh inning. Pinch hitter Leslie Nalty led off with a single. Rilling re-enetered for Nalty and moved up a base on a wild pitch and over to third base on Cooper's groundout.
Just like Ellis who had some trouble gripping the ball in the rain, West Blocton hurler Randi Davis also had some problems. Davis uncorked her second wild pitch of the inning and this one allowed Rilling to score and gave T.R. Miller a 7-6 lead.
The Lady Tigers were unable to close the door. In the bottom of the seventh inning, Pierson hit a one-out double. After Ellis got Misti Foster to fly out to Neal in leftfield, Davis doubled into centerfeld to tie the game again at 7-7.
Both teams had their chances to take the lead or win the game before the decisive 11th inning.
Neal led off the top of the eighth inning with a double. As she rounded second, she decided to try to leg it into a triple. She was quickly caught in no-man's land between second and third and was called out for running out of the base path.
T.R. Miller dodged a tremendous bullet in the bottom of the eighth inning.
A single by Demecia Fagin and two wild pitches put the winning run on third base with nobody out. On top of that, West Blocton had another runner at second base in the person of Lynsey Cargile, who reached on a fielder's choice.
Ellis got one big out when she fanned Haley Fisher. The key play of the inning came when the next batter, Lanie McGee, hit a slow roller back to Ellis. Ellis was originally in a position where she was going to have to hold the ball because she had no play at first base. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Fagin had strayed too far down the third base line. Ellis fired the ball over to third baseman Emily Layton, who tagged Fagin out for a critical second out.
While that eased some of the pressure, T.R. Miller was not out of the jam just yet because a hit could still win the game. Ellis soon took care of that though when she got Valerie Cook to fly out to Lacey Lucas in rightfield.
T.R. Miller had a good chance to take the lead in the top of the 10th inning. With one out, Jamie Peacock singled and moved up to third base on back-to-back wild pitches. However, she would go no farther.
The Lady Tigers scored what they hoped would be the winning run in the top of the 11th inning. With one out Layton singled. She then moved around the bases courtesy of a passed ball and two wild pitches to put T.R. Miller back in front 8-7.
West Blocton again refused to let the door close on its season. In the bottom of the 11th, the opposing Lady Tigers got a leadoff double by Cook, an infield single by Pierson and a walk to Foster to fill the bases with nobody out.
Ellis got Davis to hit a grounder to Rilling at second base, who fired home to catcher Terri Lynne Peacock for a force out.
The escape act would go no farther. Catelyn Marchant drew a walk to force in Cook with the tying run and Fagin singled in Pierson with the winning run.
"We battled hard, but we just could never seem to shake them," Riggs said. "I think both teams had a lot of trouble getting a good grip on the ball at times because of the conditions, but it was the same for both."
A couple of big innings led to T.R. Miller's downfall in its 9-2 loss to Danville in the opener. The Lady Hawks (42-16) took the lead in the top of the first inning and never let go.
Danville got a two-out RBI single by Emily Templeton in the top of the first inning against T.R. Miller pitcher Rebekah Neal.
The real damage though came in the third and sixth innings where Danville plated four runs in both.
The Lady Hawks strung together successive singles by Bethany Evans, Kristy Roberts and Tonya Howard to produce the first run of the third inning rally to make it 2-0. Then came a sacrifice fly by Casey Sparkman and an RBI groundout by Templeton. The biggest blow came when Katie James muscled up for a solo homer over the leftfield wall to make it 5-0.
The Lady Tigers had just one hit against James, the Danville pitcher, until the fifth inning when it scratched out its first run of the day.
With one out Krehbiel reached on an error, Erin Byrne singled and Rilling hit an RBI fielder's choice that cut Danville's lead to 5-1.
The Lady Tigers were unable to get the big hit they needed to get back in the game. They were also to unable to down the Danville offense.
In the top of the sixth inning, the Lady Hawks muscled up for their second four-run inning to make it 9-1. A double by Charleston Wilson and a triple by Bethany Evans were the key blows for Danville.
T.R. Miller's final run came in the bottom of the sixth inning when Cooper doubled and later scored on an groundout by Neal.
"They (Danville) just had a couple of big innings where they really hit the ball and we really didn't hit the ball that well," Riggs said.
Danville 104 004 0 – 9 10 2
T.R. Miller 000 011 0 – 2 5 1
TRM 000 600 100 01 – 8 11 2
WB 005 100 100 02 – 9 11 1