Lady Tigers wear Area 1 crown
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
They have had an occasional valley during the season, but the T.R. Miller Lady Tigers certainly found a peak Friday when they captured the championship of the Class 3A Area 1 Tournament held at the Brewton Area YMCA Park.
It marks the second straight year the Lady Tigers have won the Area championship and it marks the second straight year their tournament path went through Clarke County. T.R. Miller rode the one-hit pitching of Halie Ellis in a 10-0 win in the semifinals and used a 15-hit attack to roll to a 13-3 victory in the championship round. Both games did not go past the fifth inning.
"I felt we had been getting close to where we needed to be the last couple of weeks and we got there today. Probably the thing that got us over the hump is we didn't do much to beat ourselves. We hit the ball well and our bunting caused Clarke County a lot of problems. Both Halie in the opener and Leigh Cooper in game two threw strikes," Riggs said. "The experience of our seniors and the experience of the players who played in last year's postseason also helps at this time of the year. They understand what it takes."
T.R. Miller (16-9) got an unexpected bye in the opening round when first-round foe W.S. Neal forfeited its participation in the tournament. The Lady Blue Eagles did appear for their game, but were not allowed to participate because they only had eight available players.
"We normally have 10 players, but we had one (Brittani Moton) who was at state track meet and another (Jessica Madden) who could not play due to injury. Jessica got hurt in practice Wednesday and sat out our doubleheader against McKenzie Thursday. We had hoped a miracle might happen and she might be able to go by game time, but she couldn't. I feel bad for her and I feel bad for our other players. Most of our players don't have any postseason experience and now they still won't have postseason experience when we get to this part of the schedule next year," W.S. Neal coach Chuck Riddle said.
While T.R. Miller got some unexpected idle time, Clarke County had to survive a 5-3 win against Straughn in the other first-round bracket.
The Lady Tigers led their first encounter with the Lady Bulldogs from start to finish. T.R. Miller, which was the visiting team on the scoreboard, plated a pair of runs in the top of the first inning when courtesy runner Catherine Layton scored on a wild pitch and Terri Lynne Peacock drove in Leigh Cooper, who had reached on an error, with an RBI double.
T.R. Miller was able to open up some breathing room with a four-run uprising in the top of the third inning. Erin Byrne reached on an infield single, Emily Layton reached on a fielder's choice and Leslie Nalty beat out an infield hit that loaded the bases. Two runs scored on separate wild pitches, Taelor Robinson picked up an RBI on a groundout and Haley Rilling beat out an infield hit that got another run in and made it 6-0.
That advantage grew by another run in the top of the fourth inning when Peacock singled, stole second and scored when Byrne's grounder back to the pitcher was thrown away.
T.R. Miller got the three runs it needed to kick the 10-run rule into effect in the top of the fifth. Rilling reached on an error, stole second, went to third on a single by Ellis and scored on a sacrifice fly by Cooper. After Peacock singled, Byrne ripped a two-run double that accounted for the rest of the 10-0 margin.
Meanwhile Ellis cruised along on the mound and came within one out of no-hitter until Clarke County's Nikki Harvell spoiled it with a single for the Lady Bulldogs lone hit.
After the first loss to T.R. Miller, Clarke County was sent to the elimination bracket where it knocked off Straughn again, this time by a 12-8 margin.
There was no chance of a no-hitter by T.R. Miller pitching in game two when Menetree Martin led off the game with a triple against Cooper and scored on a groundout by Jessica McKinley one batter later.
Clarke County's 1-0 lead held until the bottom of the third inning when the Lady Tigers broke through against Lady Bulldogs hurler Rachel Norris.
Singles by Rilling, Ellis and Cooper loaded the bases and a three-run triple by Peacock promptly unloaded them. Peacock scored one batter later when Byrne reached on an error that made it 4-1.
Thirteen T.R. Miller batters went to the plate and nine of them scored in the fourth inning that busted the game open.
That rally included rare back-to-back-to-back RBI triples by Peacock, Byrne and Emily Layton. It also contained RBI singles by Catherine Layton, Nalty, Rilling and Ellis.
Suddenly up 13-1, T.R. Miller had some cushion in its quest to end the tournament the same way it started, with a 10-run rule win in the top of the fifth inning. It was a task that nearly slipped through its grasp. Three singles and a pair of walks pushed two Clarke County runs across the plate and the Lady Bulldogs had the bases loaded when Cooper got Waverly Hunt pop out to first baseman Rachel Bostic to end the game.
With their Area championship now behind them, T.R. Miller now gets ready for the first level of sub-state competition Tuesday when it hosts the Area 2 runner-up in the best two-out-of-three series. Opponent and game time had not been announced by Sunday's press time.
T.R. Miller 204 13 – 10 11 1
Clarke County 000 00 – 0 1 3
Clarke County 100 02 – 3 6 3
T.R. Miller 004 9X – 13 15 3