North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

May 13, 2014

Softball: We're done here

For first time since 1999 (or maybe before that), no local teams advance to state tournament

By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News

— Making your annual plans to see a local high school softball team at the AHSAA State Tournament this week in Montgomery?

Well, don’t.

For the first time since 1999 —and possibly before that — there will be no team representing northern Jefferson or southern Blount counties at the big tournament this year.

Of the four local teams that advanced to their respective regional playoffs last weekend, only two even won a game. The others went two-and-out in the double-elimination brackets.

The last to go down was the one with the best history. Mortimer Jordan, which made it to the North Central Regional in Tuscaloosa after knocking off the defending Class 5A champion Hayden in their area tournament, started off with a 5-3 win over eighth-ranked McAdory.

But the No. 5 Blue Devils lost their second game on Friday to Moody by a 2-1 score, dumping Jordan into the loser’s bracket.

The Devils started off bright and early Saturday morning with one of the best pitching performances that junior Natalie Johnsey has ever turned in. She threw a 4-0 no-hitter against a strong Pleasant Grove team, in which only two Spartan runners reached base — one on a walk, and another on a throwing error by Johnsey that pulled first baseman Alexandra Copeland’s foot off the base.

That set up an afternoon tilt against Springville, a team which historically given Jordan everything it could handle over the years.

After putting up two quick runs in the first inning on a bases-loaded wild pitch followed by an error, the Tigers retaliated with three in the bottom of the inning on a two-run double plus a wild pitch by starter Bailey Murphy.

Then things got ugly for the Devils, as Springville posted four runs in the second inning. The bases were juiced thanks to an error and a misplayed bunt, and coach Shawn Maze pulled Murphy out of the circle in favor of Johnsey, who walked in two runs.

Johnsey followed that with a strikeout, but then gave up two RBI singles, and Maze had seen enough. Out came Johnsey and back in went Murphy, who ended the inning.

Jordan came close to recovering, taking advantage of two Tiger errors to score three in the third, then another run in the fourth when Copeland drove in Morgan Maze with a base hit.

But Springville took advantage of the Devils’ defensive lapses again in the fifth inning, as they scored two runs on two errors to lock up the game and end Jordan’s hopes.

The Devils finish the season with a 25-23 record.

Something to note for the 2015 season: Jordan, Hayden, Springville and Moody will all be in the same area.

Gardendale’s trip to the Class 6A regionals was short and anything but sweet, as they lost by a 9-1 score to Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa, then 10-1 in the loser’s bracket to Hueytown.

Likewise for Fultondale in 2A, which bowed of the regional after two mercy-rule losses: a 10-0 defeat at the hands of Lamar County, followed by a 16-1 loss to Walter Wellborn.

At the South Central Regional at Troy, Corner lost its opening 4A game in a close 4-3 decision by Handley, then won 3-0 over Childersburg to stave off elimination. The Yellow Jackets then lost 9-1 to Oak Grove, who went on to earn a state tournament berth.