Spain Park’s season ends after back-to-back losses at state tournament

Published 9:11 pm Monday, May 13, 2024

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

OXFORD – After an incredible run to make it back to the Class 7A State Tournament at Oxford’s Choccolocco Park, the Spain Park Jaguars’ season has come to a close.

The Jags fell to the Enterprise Wildcats 3-1 before losing to the Daphne Trojans 5-1 on Monday, May 13 to finish the season.

“I’m super proud of this team,” Spain Park coach Allyson Ritenour said. “The team chemistry that they have and the love that they have for each other and how much they fight for each other all season was so much fun to see. The seniors were amazing leaders, and everyone played a role in just doing awesome, getting us to state this season, which is one of our goals. They worked extremely hard, we got better as the season progressed, we played a tough schedule and we just kept fighting.”

In the first game of the day, Spain Park got off to a strong offensive start by loading up the bases in the top of the first, but the two walks and Tatum Lasseter single weren’t enough to get a run.

Ella Ussery settled into a rhythm in the pitcher’s circle, securing a one-two-three first inning before getting two of the first three batters out in the second.

However, the Jags surrendered a one-out walk during that stretch, and Enterprise then capitalized with a solo home run to take a 2-0 lead on its first hit of the day.

A walk and a single followed for the Wildcats, but Ussery secured a strikeout to limit the damage and get out of the second.

Spain Park got its own chance to use a free base-runner to its advantage in the top of the third when Charlee Bennett walked to start the inning before stealing second and advancing to third off a fly out. Allie Whitaker then brought her home off a sacrifice fly to make the score 2-1.

The teams settled into a pitcher’s duel from there as Ussery’s one-out single in the top of the fourth was the last base-runner from either side until the bottom of the sixth. Ussery retired 11 straight Enterprise batters during that stretch to keep it a one-run game.

The Wildcats made their move once again in the bottom of the sixth thanks to a single, walk and fielder’s choice that loaded the bases with one out.

Teagan Huey made the throw to Maggie Daniel on the next play to get the runner out at home, but a wild pitch during the next at-bat made the lead 3-1 and finished off the Enterprise win.

That set up Spain Park with a win-or-go-home game against Daphne shortly after.

The Trojans capitalized early off a back-to-back walks in the top of the first to hit a two-out RBI single and take a 1-0 lead.

The Jags had an opportunity with two on in the bottom of the second thanks to a walk and an error, but two straight strikeouts ended the chance to tie the game.

Shortly after, Daphne got a pair of runners on in the top of the third thanks to a hit batsman and a single, and it doubled up the lead during an inning-ending double play.

Spain Park tried to break through with a pair of walks in the bottom of the third and a Chloe Wade double in the bottom of the fourth, but the fifth inning was when it ended the deadlock.

Back-to-back singles by Caroline Charles and Daniel kicked off the inning, and while the next two batters got out to put the Jags in a hole, Teagan Huey came up with an RBI single to score Charles and make it a one-run game.

However, the Trojans restored their two-run lead with one swing in the top of the sixth with a one-out solo home run.

That put Daphne’s lead at 3-1 and it didn’t look back from there.

The Trojans got an opening off a one-out error in the top of the seventh and scored off another error on the next play. A walk then put two runners on and led to an RBI single to make the lead 5-1.

Spain Park couldn’t respond in any of its three chances in the bottom of the seventh, and the Jags’ season ended with their second straight loss in the state tournament.

At the end of the day, Ritenour was proud of her pitchers Ussery and Reagan Stewart for their strong performances in the circle and thought the offense just wasn’t able to capitalize in key situations to tip the scales in their favor.

“I think just executing and getting runners on base and finding a way to score is definitely something that we could have done in order to get on top,” Ritenour said. “I think our pitchers did amazing, so I’m proud of them for that, defense too. So, really just executing at the plate would have helped a lot.

As the Jags embraced each other outside the field after the game, Ritenour remarked at the tight bonds that her players forged with one another. She said that those relationships will be what she looks back on the most in the years to come.

“This team, they’re just so close, and they just genuinely fought for each other every single play, every single inning,” Ritenour said. “I think that’s one of my favorite things about this team.