Maggie Daniel walk-off home run in 9th lifts Spain Park past No. 2 Hewitt for regional berth

Published 11:28 pm Wednesday, May 3, 2023

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

TRUSSVILLE – Stepping to the plate with her team trailing by one run in the bottom of the ninth and two runners on base against the state’s second-ranked team, Maggie Daniel didn’t let the nerves get to her.

Instead, the start Spain Park softball player quickly found herself in a 2-0 hitter’s count and capitalized. On the third pitch she saw, she drilled a ball deep to center field that cleared the wall for a three-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to clinch a regional berth for the Jaguars.

It completed a thrilling back-and-forth battle between the top-10 teams in Class 7A, as the Jags met Daniel at home plate in a chaotic celebration following the 9-7 win.

It was a game that saw Spain Park have to put together clutch hits on multiple occasions, but very time it looked like the Jaguars were down and out in the game, they had an answer.

Spain Park, who was 0-2 against the Huskies this season with losses of 10-3 and 3-1, entered the bottom of the seventh inning with the game on the line as well, trailing 4-2.

Staring another loss to Hewitt in the face, Katie Flannery gave the Jags a spark with a lead-off single, while Daniel followed shortly after with a one-out walk to put two on base.

A strikeout, however, put Spain Park down to its final out, while the Jags were on the brink of going to the loser’s bracket in the area tournament.

Instead, Ella Ussery picked up the first of two clutch hits on the night for the Jags.

In an even 1-1 count, she calmly took the third pitch she saw and drove a hard grounder up the middle that allowed both Flannery and Daniel to come home and tie the game with one swing of the bat.

That ultimately forced extra innings, which saw the Huskies take a lead on an RBI single in the top of the ninth.

But Spain Park’s late heroics started with errors from Hewitt in the bottom of the ninth. A hit batter and a walk put two aboard for the Jags, which set the stage for Daniel’s two-run bomb to end it shortly after.

The game started with the two teams trading one run each in the first three half innings, leading to a 2-1 lead for Hewitt through two innings.

After a scoreless two innings, the Huskies added to their lead in the top of the fifth with two more runs, making it 4-1, but the Jags got an important run in the bottom half, which ultimately allowed them to even the score in the seventh ahead of the walk-off win.

Daniel finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs in the win, while Ussery totaled three RBIs on one hit. Flannery and Charlee Bennett each finished with one hit in the win.

Ella Reed got the start in the circle and struck out six, allowing four runs on eight hits and a walk, while Ussery finished off the game by giving up just one unearned run on two hits and no walks while adding six strikeouts.

Spain Park will look to finish off the area tournament championship, needing one win in two tries before advancing to regionals next week.