Cats sweep Lions for area

Home field was already established for next week’s area tournament at Shelby County, but the Wildcats took the No. 1 seed with a sweep of Briarwood this week, 5-1 and 11-7.

The Wildcats traveled to Briarwood Thursday to determine the Class 5A, Area 8 championship, as both teams were tied in the area at 4-1.

Briarwood scored twice in the first inning, but the Wildcats responded with a five-run third inning, scoring off seven straight hits. Shelby County scored a run in the fourth and fifth and broke the game open in the sixth with a four-spot.

Leading the way for the Wildcats was senior outfielder Meagan Billingsley, who was 4-for-5. She is determined to make her senior year a special one.

“I think it’s now or never,” Billingsley said. “Last year was kind of a rebuilding year, a dead year. Now that we have eight seniors, we definitely want to finish on top.”

Billingsley is one of eight seniors that got a taste of the state tournament in Montgomery as sophomores in 2007 when the Wildcats made their first appearance in school history. Making it back has been this group’s goal since the final out at Spanish Fort last year in round two.

“We’re not going out without making it back to state. Only two of us are going to play college ball, so this is the last time to play for a lot of us,” said Billingsley, who is headed to Alabama-Huntsville in the fall.

The other college ball player is future Central Alabama Community College pitcher Brooklyn Phillips, who picked up the save Thursday with seven strikeouts in 3.2 innings. Phillips also came through with her bat, going 2-for-3 at the plate with two RBIs. To Phillips, hitting has been the strong point for the ’Cats late in the season, picking up steam since spring break.

Part of that increased production from the plate has also come from seniors Jessica Pennington and Cycola Buie. Pennington, who hit a home run in Tuesday’s win over Briarwood, finished 3-for-5 with two RBIs Thursday, while Buie had one hit and an RBI. Courtney Shields and Blair Pierce had two hits in the win.

Now that the offense is clicking, Shelby County is looking to fill in the holes on defense to support its pitching combo of Phillips and Elizabeth Waldrop, who picked up the win Thursday.

Catcher Lauren Parks led Briarwood Thursday with three hits, while Madeline Lamon and Amy Hale had two hits and two RBIs and Caroline Seay had a hit and two RBIs.

Shelby County will host the Area 8 tournament April 30 and May 1. Briarwood will enter the tournament as the No. 2 seed and will face No. 3 Chelsea in the first game, while John Carroll is the No. 4 seed.

In other games from staff reports:

CHELSEA 14, PELHAM 13: Chelsea took an 8-0 lead after two innings, but Pelham bounced back with a nine-run third, setting the back-and-forth tone of the game. Tori Hollis was 3-for-3 at the plate with a walk and four runs scored to lead Chelsea, while Kacey Craft was 4-for-5 with four RBIs and Carely Toretta was 3-for-4 with five RBIs. Johnna Barnes had three hits and an RBI. Emily Sharman led Pelham with three hits and two runs scored. Caitlin Bice picked up the win for the Hornets, while Melanie Tittle was the losing pitcher for Pelham.