Spain Park falls just short of 7A softball state title

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

MONTGOMERY – The Spain Park Jaguars softball team came up just short of hoisting the Class 7A state championship trophy after dropping two tough games to the Fairhope Pirates on Thursday, May 17 in the AHSAA softball state tournament.

After defeating Hewitt-Trussville, Prattville and Smiths Station to make it to round four of the winner’s bracket, Spain Park met up with one-loss Fairhope coming out of the loser’s bracket.

The Jaguars needed one win to take home the blue map but ran into a scrappy Fairhope team that defeated Spain Park 7-5 and 8-6.

Below are recaps of how both games went down:

Game 1. Fairhope 7 – Spain Park 5

Three more outs. That’s all that separated Spain Park from a 7A state championship trophy but as the saying goes, “nothing in life is a given.”

Leading 5-3 heading to the top of the seventh inning, Spain Park was unable to keep Fairhope off the scoreboard as the Pirates rallied to score four runs to take a 7-5 lead. It was a lead they would hold for good.

Spain Park also rallied from an early deficit in the game as Fairhope hit back-to-back solo home runs and scored on an error to take a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning.

Spain Park’s big inning came in the bottom of the fourth as Caroline Wooley’s RBI single put the Jaguars on the scoreboard. Taylor Harrington then followed with a two-RBI single to tie the game 3-3. The Jaguars then took the lead as a ground out scored Kate Campbell from third to make it 4-3.

Spain Park added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning on an RBI single by Maddie Majors to make it 5-3 but the Jaguars would ultimately need a larger cushion.

Spain Park starting pitcher Annabelle Widra finished with a complete game but had her toughest stretch in the top of the seventh inning allowing four runs on four hits in the frame.

Down to their final chance, Spain Park had two on with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning but a strikeout ended it to seal the win for Fairhope.

Alea Johnson picked up the win in the circle for Fairhope after giving up eight hits in five innings.

Game 2. Fairhope 8 – Spain Park 6

With each team now even with one loss apiece, Spain Park and Fairhope met again roughly 30 minutes later to determine the 7A state champion.

Spain Park struck first as Alexis Anderson hit an RBI-single to score Wildra to give the Jaguars an early 1-0 lead.

The lead would be short lived however as Fairhope put up four runs in the bottom of the first inning after collecting five hits in the frame to take a 4-1 lead.

Widra started game two for Spain Park but was pulled after struggling in the first inning giving up the four runs on 31 pitches.

The theme of the game for Spain Park was ultimately leaving runners on base. The Jaguars left 11 runners on base and missed out on having multiple scoring chances in the fifth and sixth innings.

In the fifth, the Jaguars had runners on second and third with no outs but a hard line drive was caught and led to a double play. The final out was a fly out as Spain Park couldn’t cut into the Fairhope lead.

The following inning, Spain Park loaded the bases with one out in the top of the sixth trailing 4-2 but couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity. The Jaguars struck out and a ball that was popped up behind the plate was caught near the fence to end the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Fairhope broke the game open with four more runs to extend its lead to 8-2 and all hope essentially looked lost for Spain Park.

However, the Jaguars didn’t go down without a fight as they made things interesting and drama filled in the top of the seventh inning.

A one out double by Bailey Bowers followed by an error cut the lead to 8-3.

Fairhope pitcher Johnson walked three of the next four pitchers as two more runs came in to make it an 8-5 game.

The Pirates made a pitching change which resulted in a strikeout for the second out in the inning. With the bases still loaded, relief pitcher Samantha Yarbrough walked in another run to make it 8-6 as tensions rose in the Fairhope dugout.

Luckily for the Pirates, the six-run cushion coming into the final inning proved to be enough as Yarbrough recorded a strikeout to end the game and seal the 7A state championship for Fairhope.

After the game, Spain Park head coach C.J. Hawkins praised her team for the season they’ve had that included winning 41 games and fighting till the very end.

“I’ve been doing this a long time and most teams would’ve rolled over and gone three up and three down being down by six runs in the final inning,” Hawkins said.

Spain Park is bound to build on its success from 2018 as the Jaguars will return every varsity player in 2019 after having no seniors on the team this season.

For more photos, visit Shelbycountyphotos.com.