Oak Mountain battles to advance to Regionals
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor
ALABASTER – While the area championship may have gone to the Thompson Warriors on Wednesday, May 1, the gutsiest effort of the day went to the Oak Mountain Eagles thanks to two wins before squaring off with the Warriors in the area tournament to clinch a spot in the regional round of the playoffs.
In the loser’s bracket of the Class 7A Area 5 tournament following a 9-5 loss to Tuscaloosa County on the first day of action, Oak Mountain responded with two one-run victories over Hoover and Tuscaloosa County on Wednesday to not just earn a matchup with the Warriors for the area title, but cement that spot in the postseason.
In a wild game against Hoover that featured a combined 33 hits, 33 runs and 11 errors, the Eagles gave up a 16-9 lead through the top half of the fifth when Hoover scored seven combined runs between the fifth and seventh innings to tie the game at 16.
The final two of those runs by the Buccaneers came in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game and force extra innings with their season on the line.
But in the top of the eighth, Oak Mountain, who could have been shell shocked by giving up what was once a 10-4 lead and then a 16-9 lead, took advantage of a leadoff single from Abi Brown when Hannah Atwood hit a ground ball that ended in an error and allowed Brown to come home for what eventually came the game-winning run in a 17-16 victory.
Hoover put one runner aboard with two outs in the top of the eighth, but a fly out ended any threat from the Bucs as well as their season, while the Eagles kept their 2019 season alive.
Oak Mountain was led by Brown in the game with a 4-for-4 performance featuring four RBIs and four runs scored. M’Kiyah Mithcell had a team-high five RBIs thanks to a 2-for-4 game at the plate. Dawn Autry and Clara Fuller each had three hits in the win, while Riley Sullivan added one hit and two RBIs.
Pitching wise, Lacy Marty, Abby Sandidge and Hannah Atwood all got time in the circle. While it was a struggle at times giving up the 19 combined hits and 16 runs, the effort was undeniable and Atwood’s strong final inning played a huge part in picking up the win.
Still in the loser’s bracket following the win, Oak Mountain had one more win to grab in order to claim a spot in the next round of the playoffs as well as set up a matchup with the host Thompson Warriors for the area title, and that one team standing in the way was none other than Tuscaloosa County who had just beaten them the night before.
This time around, however, Marty was determined to redeem not only her performance a game earlier against Hoover but the nine runs she gave up the night before in that loss to the Wildcats.
In what was a tightly contested game with every run in a low-scoring affair making a crucial difference, Marty became the key.
She allowed two runs through the first four innings, which led to a 2-2 tie to that point, but when her teammates needed her most in the season, she stepped up and only allowed three total baserunners in the final three innings.
That allowed the Oak Mountain offense to settle in at the plate, and in the top of the sixth, senior Clara Fuller took advantage on an RBI single that drove home Jade Celestin for what became the game-winning run.
Up 3-2, Marty got the Wildcats to go down in order in the bottom of the sixth now that she had the lead, and then allowed just one baserunner in the final inning to put the game away and send the Eagles to the postseason.
Marty ended up with a complete-game effort featuring five hits and two earned runs while striking out two.
At the plate, Grace Hummell went 3-for-4 and Atwood 2-for-4 to pace Oak Mountain, while Brown, Emily Hart and Fuller all had one hit and one RBI apiece.
While the Eagles fell 8-1 to Thompson later that night, the two wins kept their season alive, as they’ll now head to Bowers Park in Tuscaloosa May 9-11 to compete in regionals.
Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com.
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