Helena repeats as area champs, set for regionals

Published 9:11 pm Wednesday, May 4, 2022

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

HELENA – The Helena Huskies started their 2022 postseason trek identical to last year after sweeping through the Class 6A, Area 6 tournament May 3-4 to repeat as champions and earn a spot at regionals.

Last year’s team made a special run to the state tournament, and now this year’s group will enter the playoffs as one of the state’s hottest teams.

Not only did the Huskies sweep the area tournament, but they did so by scoring 12 runs or more in every game.

With the three victories against Pelham, Chilton County and Calera, Helena improved to 34-4-3 overall on the season and has won 21 of the last 22.

The Huskies opened the tournament with a rivalry battle against Pelham and quickly put together an impressive showing to advance in the winner’s bracket.

Helena scored nine runs in the opening inning to take command early and never looked back. The Huskies added one more in the second and two in the fourth to open the tournament with a 12-2 victory behind 11 hits.

In the win, Alana Scott went 2-for-3 with three RBIs, while Cam Bailey had a home run and finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Grayson Barnett also had two RBIs on two hits, while Ann Marie Stanbridge, Bella Holliday, Sara Ezekiel and Alex Erwin all had one hit and one RBI.

Stanbridge got the win in the circle, striking out six and giving up two runs on four hits and no walks.

Later that night, the Huskies squared off against Chilton County in a winner’s bracket game to determine which of the two would lock up the first spot in regionals from the area.

And just like the first game, Helena capitalized on a strong start.

The Huskies fell behind 2-0 in the top of the first, but they quickly answered with two runs of their own in the bottom half and then opened the game up with six in the second to take an 8-2 advantage.

That was the start of a game in which Helena scored in every inning, adding one in the third, one in the fourth, two in the fifth and three in the sixth to win another shortened game, this time 15-5 in six innings.

Helena finished the game with 14 hits, including two doubles from Erwin, as well as one double each from Ezekiel, Scott and Stannbridge.

Ezekiel led the way for Helena with three hits and three RBIs in the win. Erwin finished the game with two hits and three RBIs, while Barnett added three hits and two RBIs. Scott also finished with two RBIs on her one double, while Presley Lively added a hit and an RBI from the leadoff spot.

Bailey got the complete-game win in the circle this time around, striking out 15 of the 25 batters she faced in a strong effort. She allowed five runs, four of which were earned, on four hits and two walks.

By advancing in the winner’s bracket, the Huskies not only locked up a spot in regionals, but they also had two chances to claim the area title a night later on May 4.

But they only needed one opportunity.

Helena did not miss its chance to lock up the area title in the first game against Calera in a county battle.

The Eagles battled throughout the game, leading to a 9-7 deficit through two innings and an 11-9 deficit through four, but Helena put together the difference-making inning in the fifth.

The Huskies brought home four runs in the top of the fifth, while Calera could only answer with one in the bottom half.

Helena then added one more insurance run to create the final score of 16-10.

The game featured 10 hits from each team and a combined 10 errors, seven of which came from the Eagles.

Stanbridge finished the game with three RBIs on two hits, while the Huskies also got two RBIs apiece from Erwin, Scott, Holliday, Bailey and Barnett.

Lively, Erwin and Stanbridge all finished with two hits in the area championship win, while Holliday, Ezekiel, Bailey and Barnett each had one. Stanbridge had one home run, while Bailey and Ezekiel had doubles and Lively had a triple.

Stanbridge gave up seven unearned runs on five hits and one walk in the circle, while Amelia Powell finished off the final five innings and allowed three runs on five hits and three walks.

The Huskies will now look for another special run at regionals to earn a spot in this year’s state tournament.