Thompson softball team headed to state after remarkable comeback
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor
TUSCALOOSA – With two outs on the board and in a 2-2 count, Thompson junior Ella Pate faced the biggest pitch of her life on Friday night, May 14, at Tuscaloosa’s Bowers Park.
The Warriors and Pate were down to their final strike of the season trailing Dothan 3-2 in the top of the seventh with a spot in the Class 7A state tournament on the line.
Pate, who fell behind in the count early at 1-2, fouled off three consecutive pitches and then watched the second ball just to earn an eighth pitch of the at bat.
And that’s when she struck.
With runners on first and second, she blasted a line drive deep to right field that got to the fence and brought both Jenna and Laney Williams home for a two-RBI triple to erase the deficit with one swing of the bat and put Thompson in front 4-3.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Warriors followed with a double from Kendall Channell to drive home Pate, another triple from Kaylee Cannon to drive home Channell and then an error by the catcher to bring home Cannon.
All of a sudden, Thompson went from down to its final strike in a one-run deficit to leading by three runs going to the bottom of the final inning.
Eleanor DeBlock tossed two strikeouts around a single quickly in the home half of the seventh and then got a ground out to Laney Williams for the final out of the game to complete a remarkable comeback and send Thompson to the Class 7A state tournament.
The Warriors, who were coming off a difficult and emotional one-run loss to Hoover earlier in the day, went into the final inning without head coach Kevin Todd, who was ejected in the bottom of the sixth.
But his team responded to the moment by getting fired up and entering the top of the seventh motivated during a stretch in which they hadn’t had much momentum.
Before Pate’s go-ahead triple, Lindsey Cook was the first to reach base in the inning on a lead-off single.
She also became the first out when Dailynn Motes hit into a fielder’s choice, but DeBlock then walked to put runners on first and second with one out.
That brought arguably the most dangerous bat on the team to the plate.
The only player with two hits going into the seventh, Jenna Williams stepped into the batter’s box and wasted no time on a single up the middle to drive home Motes and make it a 3-2 game.
Laney Williams then grounded into a fielder’s choice at third for the second out of the inning, but that’s when Pate stepped to the plate.
After fouling off the first pitch, watching a ball for the second pitch and missing the third pitch, she fouled off three in a row, then drew ball two before her battle ended with the go-ahead triple to send her teammates into a frenzy in the dugout.
From there, the rest of the batters in the inning wanted their shot, which helped the Warriors put three more insurance runs on the board to give DeBlock cushion in the circle.
Jenna Williams was the only player with multiple hits in the win thanks to a 3-for-4 showing at the plate with one RBI. Pate only had one hit, but that’s all she needed as she finished with two RBIs to lead the team.
DeBlock, Channell and Cannon all had one hit and one RBI, while Motes, Laney Williams, Madison Poplin, Cook and Olivia Tindle all had one hit.
Holly Selman got the start in the circle and gave up two runs on five hits with two strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings pitched, while DeBlock went the rest of the way, giving up two hits, one unearned run and striking out five.
After falling behind 1-0 in the bottom of the first, Thompson scored its first run in the top of the third on an RBI single from DeBlock, who drove home Motes after she singled one at bat earlier.
The Warriors, however, left the bases loaded with one out after Pate grounded into a double play, which she more than made up for later in the game.
That became Thompson’s only run in the first six innings of the game, as the Warriors never could string together multiple hits.
Dothan went on to score one run each in the fourth and fifth to break the tie and take a 3-1 lead through five innings.
Thompson then went down in order for the second time in the game during the top of the sixth, as hope began to squander after that.
But the Warriors had the right part of the lineup due up in the top of the seventh, and that group saved its best at bats for last to help them pull off the thrilling win.
Thompson picked up its 40th win of the season thanks to the victory and will now take part in the Class 7A state tournament at Oxford’s Choccolocco Park.
The Warriors will square off with No. 4 Bob Jones on Thursday, May 20 at 9 a.m. to open the double-elimination tournament.
Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com.