Calera falls short of state tournament after advancing to final game of regionals

Published 10:56 pm Wednesday, May 8, 2024

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

MONTGOMERY – The Calera Eagles put up a strong battle in the Class 6A Central Regional tournament but ultimately fell just a win shy of qualifying for the state tournament.

The Eagles won both of their games on Monday, May 6 at Lagoon Park in Montgomery behind an 11-3 win over the Pelham Panthers and a 2-1 victory over the Hillcrest Patriots before falling 6-3 to the Helena Huskies and 2-1 to Hillcrest on the final day on Tuesday, May 7.

In the first game of the tournament, Calera emerged from an early hole against the Pelham Panthers with a big fourth inning at the plate and a dominant showing from Kate Townley in the circle.

After a lead-off walk to start the top of the first for Pelham, Jordan Howard launched a one-out, two-run home run to put the Panthers up 2-0.

Whitney Holtzapfel kicked off the Calera response in the bottom of the first with a lead-off single, and two batters later, Kinley Rodgers hit a first-pitch RBI triple to cut the lead to one. Rodgers then came home from third thanks to a sacrifice fly to tie up the game at 2-2.

Townley settled in inside the circle from there, striking out five of the next six batters and getting out of a two-runner jam in the top of the third.

That set up Holtzapfel to give the Eagles the lead in the bottom of the frame off a one-out solo home run.

While that lead proved to short-lived following Rebecca Roy’s RBI single in the top of the fourth, the 3-3 tie would be as close as Pelham would get to retaking the lead.

After Lucy Townsend singled to start the bottom of the fourth, an error off a Megan Overton sacrifice and a Bristol Rogers RBI single gave Calera the 5-3 lead.

Shortly after, Armiya Shamburger hit an RBI single and Holtzapfel plated a run off a fielder’s choice to extend the lead to 7-3.

While the next batter got out, the Eagles rallied for four straight singles, including run-scoring hits from Rodgers, Townsend and Overton. Those finished off the eight-run fourth inning and set the stage for Calera to earn the 11-3 win.

Townley struck out the side in the top of the seventh to finish her 12-strikeout performance in a complete-game win. She worked her way around two earned runs, three total runs, six hits and a walk to earn the victory.

Holtzapfel went 2-for-4 with three runs and two RBI, Overton batted in two runs off a 1-for-2 day with a run, Rodgers finished 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI and Townsend went 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI. Isabella Overton also ended the game 2-for-3 to cap off the big game at the plate.

After that, Calera took on Hillcrest for a spot in the winner’s bracket finals the next day.

The Patriots hit a lead-off single in the top of the first that eventually turned into a run thanks to an error with two outs.

However, the Eagles quickly responded to that 1-0 hole to tie up the game.

In the bottom half of the frame, Holtzapfel singled on the first pitch she saw and advanced to second off a Wade sacrifice bunt. While the next batter hit into a fly out, Townley delivered on the second pitch of her at-bat with a single. She advanced to second base on the throw and scored Holtzapfel from second to tie up the game at 1-1.

From there, it was a defensive battle as Townley struck out the side in the top of the second and neither team scored again until the bottom of the third.

That was when Wade walked with one out in the inning and eventually advanced to third off a stolen base and Rodgers ground-out to set up Townley with a runner close to home.

Once again, Townley provided her own run support off a line-drive double on an 0-2 count to score Wade and give Calera the 2-1 lead.

Townley and the Eagles held Hillcrest to just two hits the rest of the way to seal the 2-1 victory and put themselves a win away from state.

Townley went all seven innings without giving up an earned run and earned nine strikeouts against one unearned run, three hits and a walk. She also went 2-for-3 at the plate with two RBI as she scored both of her team’s runs.

The next day, Calera got up early against Helena to control the matchup against the top team in Class 6A.

After Townley struck out the final two batters in the top of the first, she hit an RBI double after a two-out single to take a 1-0 lead.

Townley engaged in a defensive duel with Huskies starter Hayden Traywick as she pitched to contact and got quick outs to end innings.

However, Helena took advantage of an error to start a rally and broke through with a two-out RBI double in the top of the fifth take the lead. It later extended the advantage to 3-1 in the top of the sixth off an RBI single to put more pressure on the Eagles.

Calera battled back in response in the bottom of the sixth thanks to a pair of RBI singles from Rodgers and Townsend and tied up the game at 3-3 heading into the seventh and final inning.

The Huskies landed the final blow after capitalizing off an error for a three-run rally to take the 6-3 lead.

The loss put Calera in an elimination game where it would face Hillcrest once again, this time with a spot in the state tournament.

The Patriots quickly struck in the top of the first when they rallied with two outs for a single followed by an RBI triple to take a 1-0 lead.

However, the game quickly echoed their first meeting when Townsend equalized in the bottom of the first off an RBI single.

Unlike their previous meeting, neither team could break through for multiple innings as another five innings came and went without a run with Townley again commanding the circle.

Hillcrest broke through in the seventh inning with a double followed by a RBI single after Calera opted to throw to the cut-off player instead of going home, and the Patriots held the Eagles scoreless in the bottom half of the inning to claim the 2-1 victory.

In the end, Calera finished the season with a 28-22 record after winning the area championship with a perfect 9-0 record and reaching the final stages of the regional round.