Shelby County wins Class 5A Area 6 tourney, qualifies for Regionals
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor
MARBURY – The 2019 softball season has had some ups and downs for the Shelby County Wildcats, but one thing remained certain throughout, this team still has plenty of potential when focused on one goal, and between Tuesday and Wednesday, April 30-May 1, the Wildcats flashed that potential at the Class 5A Area 6 tournament.
After picking up the three seed due to an average regular season in area play, Shelby County was forced to play on the road in the tournament and went into it with some anger and a point to prove.
The Wildcats came out of the tournament having proven that point with three consecutive wins against host team Marbury twice and Chilton County once.
Having gone 2-4 in area play during the regular season despite a 20-8 overall record, Shelby County had to battle those demons in the area tournament. The Wildcats not only did it, but beat the only team to sweep them this season by doing the same to Marbury in the tourney with two wins, one in the second round and one in the championship.
Those two wins alone show how far this team has come since its 5-5 start, as well as a 22-11 loss to the Bulldogs back on April 9.
Before those two wins against Marbury, however, the Wildcats opened the area tournament with a matchup against Chilton County in which pitching and a consistent effort led to a 6-1 victory to kick off the area tournament.
Advancing in the winner’s bracket, the Wildcats were then set up with the first matchup against Marbury.
In what became a high-scoring affair that narrowly saw the Bulldogs pull off a comeback victory, Shelby County was able to hang on for an 11-10 win in a game that featured a combined 25 hits.
Through the first two innings, the Wildcats jumped out to a 5-1 advantage with two runs in the first and three in the second.
Following that, however, Marbury started to click offensively and scored in every inning the rest of the game. The only problem for the Bulldogs became the number of runs they were scoring. Between the second and fifth innings, they scored just one run in each inning.
Shelby County also continued to bring home runs in the contest as well and in the top of the fourth added two more runs to extend its lead to 7-2.
Through five innings of play, the Wildcats still held the lead at 8-4, but that’s when things got crazy.
In the top of the sixth, Shelby County extended its lead to 11-4, but with that extra comfort came the challenge of resisting complacency the rest of the game.
In the bottom of the sixth, Marbury answered with three runs to get back within four runs, and then after a scoreless top half of the seventh from the Wildcats, the Bulldogs stepped back to the plate in the bottom half hoping to pull off a miracle win.
Marbury narrowly did just that by sparking a two-out rally. The Bulldogs eventually scored three runs, all with two outs on the board, and had the bases loaded with the game-tying and game-winning runs both in scoring position.
Shelby County, however, was able to escape the game with the win thanks to getting the final out in what became a battle between the pitcher and batter featuring a full count, but the Wildcats got the final out to preserve the 11-10 win.
With the victory, the Wildcats not only advanced to the area tournament championship game, but cemented a spot in the regional round of the playoffs as well.
But Shelby County still wanted to put the disappointment of the regular season behind them and had one more win to take home the title.
After Marbury took down Chilton County to stave off elimination, the Wildcats and Bulldogs squared off for the title on Wednesday, May 1, with Shelby County needing just one win to claim the area crown and the Dogs needing to win two games in a row.
Early in the game, it looked like Marbury had redemption on its mind after the loss the previous night thanks to an early 6-1 lead through two innings.
That quickly put Shelby County in a deep hole, but in the top of the third, the Wildcats filled the hole with dirt and climbed right out with an eight-run inning.
They used eight singles, a hit batter and a walk to drive in those eight runs, which put them in front 9-6.
Having stolen all of the momentum, Shelby County went on to score three more in the fourth for a 12-6 lead, and this time around, the Wildcats made sure not to flirt with complacency and kept hammering away eventually scoring one more run in the fifth and five more in the seventh to pull away for a dominant 18-7 win.
Shelby County ended up outhitting Marbury 21-7 in the game, committed no errors to Marbury’s five and didn’t allow a run in the final four innings to pick up the win and claim the Class 5A Area 6 championship.
Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com.