Helena starts season 4-0 as Mark Sanders earns first varsity wins

Published 10:21 pm Monday, February 19, 2024

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

ALABASTER – The Helena Huskies are off to a flying start after going 4-0 in the Thompson Presidents Day Tournament, giving their new coach Mark Sanders a key first.

Sanders earned the first win of his varsity softball career in the tournament opener against the Spain Park Jaguars on Friday, Feb. 16 as the Huskies won 4-1.

After a single and a walk to start the game in the top of the first, Presley Lively stole third base with Emma Olive at bat to allow Olive to drive her home and take the 1-0 lead.

Both offenses remained quiet until the third inning when a one-out Lively triple set up the Huskies for success. Hannah Steele brought her home with a line drive single to center field to double the lead.

Two pitches later, Hayden Traywick doubled to center to score Steele and extend the lead to 3-0.

The Huskies got two outs in the bottom of the third, but a single by Caroline Charles gave the Jags a spark.

Maggie Daniel then doubled to left field and advanced to third on the throw, which scored Charles and got Spain Park on the board before Helena got out of the inning.

The Huskies got back to work with a response from the get go in the fourth as Destiny Brashears earned a single on the first pitch of the inning. Cammi Pugh then hit another single to put runners on first and second with no outs.

On the next pitch, Lively took advantage off a line drive double to center field to score Harley Morrison, who pinch ran for Brashears, to wrap up the scoring and earn the 4-1 win.

Helena’s bats remained hot for the back half of their Friday doubleheader, which was a state tournament rematch with the Oxford Yellow Jackets.

After the Huskies got out of the top of the first by allowing just one hit, Lively hit a double on the second pitch of the at bat to get into scoring position for Steele, who earned a double of her own on the next pitch to score Lively and take a 1-0 lead.

Hayden Traywick took that lead to two runs with a line drive single to right field to score Steele from second base.

Oxford got three outs from there, but Helena got back to earning hits in the bottom of the second.

After Gracie Storey and Pugh got on base with singles, Lively hit a ground ball single that turned into extra bases off an error. While she got out at third base, Storey and Pugh both crossed home plate to take the lead to 4-0.

Steele then put herself in scoring position with a double on the next pitch and set up Henley Traywick to drive her home on a single for the fifth run.

The Huskies’ hot streak continued in the bottom of the third after singles from Brashears and Hayden Traywick let Tatum Cooper score both of them off a double.

With the lead now 7-0, Pugh extended that to eight two batters later with a single to bring Cooper home and cap off the scoring in the third.

Helena got out of the top of the fourth with a one-two-three inning and kept scoring in the bottom of the frame. An Olive lead-off walk and a Brashears single put Cooper at the plate with just one out.

After both runners stole a base to get into scoring position, Cooper hit a line drive double to center to score both of the runners and put the Huskies in run-rule territory.

The Yellow Jackets got the second out, but then Pugh hit the first pitch she saw for an RBI single to make the lead 11-0.

A walk and an error by the Oxford first baseman led to the 12th and final run of the day, and the Huskies took care of business in the top of the fifth to earn the win.

Helena had to battle in one-run games in both of their Saturday games, but it still came away with wins against the Springville Tigers and Northside Rams.

In the bottom of the first for Helena, Lively hit a triple to center field to kickstart the offense. Hayden Traywick reached base off an error that scored Lively and got the Huskies on the board.

Springville earned a leadoff walk in the top of the second and recovered from a strikeout to earn a one-out single. The next pitch was an RBI double to tie the game at 1-1, but Helena got out of the inning on the next two batters to limit the damage.

After a leadoff single from Addison Draiss, it looked as if the Huskies may not capitalize thanks to back-to-back fielder’s choice outs.

However, a Pugh single and Lively walk loaded the bases for Steele, who battled back from 0-2 down to hit a 2-2 double off a fly ball to left to score both Darden and Pugh and take a 3-1 lead.

The Tigers got out of the inning and hit a one-out triple in the top of the third. The runner scored on the next batter off an error, but Springville only got one run out of the inning and Helena kept its lead.

Both offenses remained quiet until the top of the fifth, when back-to-back singles to start the inning for the Tigers led to an RBI groundout to tie the game.

Springville then took a 4-3 lead on the next batter thanks to a single, but Helena got out of the inning by getting the two batters afterwards out.

Molly Rollan hit a leadoff single in the bottom of the fifth to give the Huskies a response, and then after Pugh reached on an error, Lively hit an RBI groundout to tie the game by scoring Darden.

Helena ended the top of the sixth unscathed thanks to two outs and a runner caught stealing. Brashears came in with one out in the bottom of the sixth to hit a single and score the ghost runner Steele to earn the 5-4 victory.

Helena used that momentum to start its final game of the tournament against Northside with a leadoff triple by Lively and an RBI groundout by Steele to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.

The Rams responded in the bottom of the first with a one-out solo home run to even the score.

The next inning, Morrison took advantage of an Olive double to hit an RBI single and retake a 2-1 lead.

However, Northside scored off a walk and an error to tie up the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the second.

The order worked its way back to Lively to kick off the third inning, and she singled to let Hayden Traywick hit an RBI single and earn a 3-2 lead. Brashears followed that up with a double, leading to a two-run RBI double from Olive with two outs to extend the lead to 5-2.

The teams remained scoreless from there until the bottom of the fifth when the Rams threatened to tie up the game.

The Huskies surrendered two runners to an error and catcher’s interference but earned two outs to put Northside on the brink.

That was when the Rams scored on back-to-back batters to cut the lead to 5-4.

Helena recovered on the next batter after Hayden Traywick got a groundout back to herself to get the final out and improve the Huskies to 4-0.