By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
— In a battle of two eighth-grade pitchers, Mortimer Jordan's Bailey Murphy came out ahead, but due in part to her bat.
Murphy's ground out to shortstop sent home Nikki Chafin from third base in the second inning, accounting for the only run in the Blue Devils' 1-0 victory over Curry in the second round of the Class 5A Area 11 softball tournament at Jordan.
The win put the Devils into the championship game on Saturday, and secures a berth in the North Central Regional Tournament next week at Liberty Park in Vestavia Hills.
Murphy and her counterpart, Ashlee Swindle, kept opposing batters at bay most of the way. Swindle allowed just three hits — two to center fielder Haylie McCleney and one to Chafin — while Murphy allowed four.
The Yellow Jackets threatened several times, leaving eight runners on base in the game, six of them in scoring position and three of those on third. Their best chance came in the top of the seventh inning, when Ella Banks doubled and then went to third on a passed ball to lead off the inning. But three straight batters couldn't bring home the tying run — Swindle popped up to second, Taylor Black's bunt was too far down the third-base line, and Kaylee Horton popped up to third to end the game.
Jordan had its own chances to add runs, but McCleney — who led off the first with a hit and ended up on third after a steal and grounder, then again in the seventh with a triple to the fence in right center — was stuck right there.
"Anytime you leave runners on base, particularly Haylie, you worry about the outcome of the game," Jordan coach Shawn Maze said. "Bailey didn't have her best stuff today, but she threw well. She came through and did her job."
Curry will play Hayden in the third-place game Saturday morning at 10 at Jordan. The winner gets the other regional berth from Area 11, and faces off against the Devils for the championship at noon. Should Jordan lose that game, a winner-take-all game will follow.