Helena softball advances to Class 6A state tournament

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

TUSCALOOSA – Facing the most adversity they have all season on Thursday, May 13, the Helena softball team responded with their season on the line against Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa.

Following a 1-0 loss to Chilton County, a team Helena had beaten all four times this season by a combined 30-6, the Huskies had to turn around and play the hometown team for the final qualifying spot from the Tuscaloosa Regional.

But after putting up just three hits and being shut out against Chilton, the Huskies responded with 10 hits and seven runs against the Patriots for a 7-3 win to claim their spot in the Class 6A state tournament.

The Huskies couldn’t have asked for a better start either after Lexie Bullock rocketed a three-run homer out of the park in the top of the first to give them a 3-0 lead right out of the gate. Alana Scott and Ann Marie Stanbridge reached base with a single and walk, respectively, to set the stage for Bullock’s three-run shot.

Hillcrest answered in the bottom of the second on a double from Brooksie Suttles before an RBI single from Nichole Dockery brought her home for the Patriots’ first run.

They were still down by two, however, and the hole got deeper in the top of the fourth when the Huskies added three more runs to the lead.

After back-to-back singles from Sara Ezekiel and Juju Wilkins to lead off the inning, a sac bunt from Cam Bailey moved both into scoring position.

Alex Erwin then hit a foul ball that was caught but allowed for Ezekiel to score after tagging up.

That was followed by an RBI double from Bella Holiday and an error on a ground ball from Scott to make it 6-1 after the top of the fourth.

Hillcrest responded with a two-out home run from Dockery in the bottom half to add two runs for the Patriots.

That, however, became the final run for Hillcrest, while Helena added one run in the top of the seventh on a passed ball to complete the 7-3 victory.

Bullock led the way with three RBIs thanks to her home run, while Holiday added one RBI on two hits. Erwin added the team’s only other RBI, while Ezekiel and Wilkins both had two hits.

Scott, Stanbridge and Presley Lively all had hits in the win as well.

Bailey got the complete-game win in the circle, totaling seven strikeouts and giving up three runs on 10 hits to help lead the Huskies to state.

No. 2 Helena (46-12) will now take on No. 6 Hazel Green (33-16) on Friday, May 21 at 9 a.m. in the opening game of the double-elimination state tournament, which will take place on Friday and Saturday.