Apr. 10—JACKSONVILLE — Alexandria’s Rylee Gattis and Pleasant Valley’s Leah Patterson scored a tour de force for pitching in Friday’s Calhoun County softball finals.
In the end, freshman Clancy Bright was the star.
Bright’s bases-loaded single gave Alexandria a 1-0, walk-off victory at Jacksonville State’s University Field.
The Valley Cubs scored their 10th county championship in the tourney’s 20-year history and third in a row, winning after the tournament took 2020 off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Last year, we were really wanting to defend it,” Alexandria coach Brian Hess said. “Those seniors were wanting to defend it, and this makes it special.”
Pleasant Valley made what veteran coach David Bryant believed to be its first county-final appearance in the fast-pitch era. The Raiders came into the day needing to beat the White Plains-Piedmont winner to reach Alexandria in the finals, and they had to beat the Valley Cubs twice to win it.
The day’s first two games ran long, and the final got started at 9:12 p.m., 12 minutes past the “if” game start time. The Raiders nearly accomplished one goal.
“We were trying our best to get to midnight,” Bryant said. “That was our goal, if we could make it to midnight.
“I can’t say enough about my team. There’s no quit in them. I was proud of the effort.”
It came down to the last at-bat and which team could come through with the bases loaded.
Gattis, the tournament’s most valuable player, doubled to lead off the bottom of the seventh and gave way to pinch-runner Brinley Sparks. Pleasant Valley issued Addie Jennings an intentional walk, and Jill Cockrell walked behind her.
Bright singled over a drawn-in infield to left field to end the game, and Hess hopped and skipped down the third-base line, waving his left arm in a circle.
“That was a great game,” he said. “I always enjoy playing Bryant and them. They’re coming after you every time.”
Gattis took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, when Pleasant Valley left-hander Macey Roper stuck a single between third base and shortstop. Gattis struck out seven batters as Patterson kept pace.
“She’s trying her best to do her job for the people behind her,” Gattis said. “They’re working for her. I have to do the best for my team behind me. I was just trying to focus on doing my job.”
Gattis worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh inning, inducing Madison Borders to hit into a 1-2-3 double play.
“The double play changed the whole momentum of the game,” Hess said. “We’d had some momentum back and forth. You leave bases loaded, second and third. Every time we done it, there were two outs.
“Then the double play, and the light switched on. Boom, they were ready to go.”
Patterson, pitching her second game of the night after leading the Raiders past hot-hitting Piedmont 7-2 in the elimination-bracket final, struck out nine batters.
She worked out of a bases-loaded jam against Piedmont and in the first and third innings against Alexandria, striking out Bright both times.
Patterson confidently approached her third time to face Bright with the bases loaded.
“I was just going to try to keep doing what I’ve been doing and hoped that it would work,” she said.
All of that was in the back of Bright’s mind when she came to bat with bases loaded and one out in the seventh.
“I was ready to hit it,” she said. “I forgot about the past, and I was just ready to win the game for my team.”
Alexandria teammates joining Gattis on the all-tournament team were Jennings, sister Chloe Gattis, Quendeja Bowie and most outstanding defensive player Ashley Phillips.
Patterson, Borders, Ava Boozer and most outstanding offensive player Bailey Harris made all-tourney from Pleasant Valley, along with Piedmont’s Emily Farmer and Grace Epperson, White Plains’ Callie Richardson and Jaylee Crow, Weaver’s Kynlee Marvasty and Tiana Lawrence, Jacksonville’s Anna Seeger and Lexi Callahan, Ohatchee’s Abbie Whitehead and Anna Bryant and Oxford’s Ellie Derrick.
“I’m real blessed to be in this position with this young of a team,” Hess said. “This here is going to do nothing but help us.”
Pleasant Valley 7, Piedmont 2: Patterson cooled Piedmont’s hot bats and got the Raiders to the finals.
Including Epperson’s two-run home run in the top of the first inning, Piedmont scored 50 runs in four previous tournament games plus an inning. That included wins of 10-0 over Wellborn, 10-2 over Ohatchee and 11-0 over Oxford on Thursday and 17-7 over White Plains earlier Friday.
Patterson held Piedmont scoreless from there. For the game, she struck out eight batters and allowed four hits, retiring nine batters in a row starting in the third inning and extending into the sixth.
Patterson also worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the sixth, including Jaycee Glover’s short pop and striking out Z’Hayla Walker on three pitches.
“The most impressive thing to me was, after the two-run home run by Epperson, how she was just unfazed and kept plowing through,” Bryant said. “Piedmont was probably the hottest team around the last week or two.”
Madyson Cromer gave Pleasant Valley its first lead, 4-2, with a two-run home run to center field in the third inning, and Harris’ RBI single in the fourth made it 5-2.
Harris added a two-run double in the sixth.
Patterson’s RBI single in the second inning tied the game 2-2, and Boozer got Pleasant Valley on the board with an RBI single in the bottom of the first.
Piedmont 17, White Plains 7: Piedmont scored 12 two-out runs while sending 16 batters to the plate in the bottom of the fourth inning then added five in the sixth to end the game.
Nine of Piedmont’s 12 runs in the fourth scored after a dropped third strike that saw Jenna Calvert reach base.
Piedmont’s 12-run rally featured Farmer’s two-run double, Epperson’s RBI single and two-run single, Walker’s two-run single, Maddy Byers’ RBI single, Emma Grace Todd’s two-run single and Reese Franklin’s two-run single.
All of the runs were unearned. Third batter Savannah Smith came to the plate with two outs and reached on an error.
“I’ve been around softball a long time, and I’ve never seen anything like that, all with two outs,” Piedmont coach Rachel Smith said. “I was glad we were on the positive end of that.”
Epperson added another two-run single in the sixth.
“I’m glad our bats heated up at the right time,” Smith said. “I hope they stay hot for the rest of the season.
“The girls realize that that’s in them to do that. Now that they have that confidence, I think they’ll keep moving forward with it.”
White Plains scored first, on Richardson’s RBI single in the first. The Wildcats added three in the fourth on Reece Roberts’ RBI single plus a two-run error.
Richardson doubled home a run in the fifth. Addison Bradley’s RBI single and Adriana Sotelo’s run-scoring double accounted for the Wildcats’ two-run sixth.
2021 Calhoun County softball tournament
At Woodland Park
Game 1: No. 8 Ohatchee 14, No. 9 Saks 1
Game 2: No. 5 White Plains advances due to lack of No. 12 seed
Game 3: No. 7 Jacksonville 8, No. 10 Wellborn 2
Game 4: No. 6 Weaver 11, No. 11 Jacksonville Christian 4
Game 5: No. 1 Alexandria 9, Ohatchee 1
Game 6: No. 5 White Plains 11, No. 4 Piedmont 5
Game 7: No. 2 Pleasant Valley 6, Jacksonville 3
Game 8: No. 3 Oxford 14, Weaver 0
At Woodland Park
Game 9: Jacksonville advances due to lack of No. 12 seed
Game 10: Weaver 2, Saks 0
Game 11: Piedmont 10, Wellborn 0
Game 12: Ohatchee 11, Jacksonville Christian 5
Game 13: Alexandria 4, White Plains 1
Game 14: Pleasant Valley 5, Oxford 2
Game 15: Jacksonville 9, Weaver 6
Game 16: Piedmont 10, Ohatchee 2
Game 17: Alexandria 5, Pleasant Valley 4
Game 18: White Plains 7, Jacksonville 2
Game 19: Piedmont 11, Oxford 0
At University Field
Game 20: Piedmont 17, White Plains 7
Game 21: Pleasant Valley 7, Piedmont 2
Game 22: Alexandria 1, Pleasant Valley 0
Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.