By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
Fourth-ranked Hayden has taken the top seed in the upcoming Class 5A Area 12 softball tournament, thanks to a 4-0 shutout Tuesday at No. 6 Mortimer Jordan.
The Wildcats were able to follow through on coach John Simmons’ admonition to “keep putting up H’s,” as in hits. Eight of them, to be exact.
“I knew that as long as our bats were ringing and we keep making hits, good things would happen,” Simmons said. “One of the hardest things is when you get in these little back-and-forth battles, you have to wait for your opportunities to come along, and we did.”
That opportunity came in the fifth inning, as the Cats were able to put together enough hits convert them into runs — though not without the aid of some defensive lapses by the Blue Devils.
Nikki Witt started the rally with a lead-off hit, and moved to third on two successive ground-outs. Then Alyssa Phillips brought her home on a double that caught the left fielder moving the wrong way, with the ball sailing over her head and to the fence.
Eighth-grade lead-off hitter Meleah Hargett then smacked a shot to right that went off the fielder’s glove for an error, allowing Phillips to score. The throw came home, then back to second to try to get Hargett, but that throw went over second base and into center field for a second error, which let Hargett come all the way to the plate.
Hayden added a run in the seventh when Brooke Meadows doubled home Phillips.
Meanwhile, pitcher Caitlin Phillips kept Jordan hitters at bay yet again. She scattered four hits to go with eight strikeouts, as she blanked Jordan for the second time this year.
The only time the Devils posed a serious threat was in the bottom of the seventh, when they put two runners aboard on consecutive two-out singles, but Kirkland got out of the jam by striking out pinch-hitter Morgan Maze.
Devils freshman pitcher Bailey Murphy started strong, striking out the first three batters and four the first time through the Hayden order. But she only got one more after that.
Witt and Phillips each went 2-for-3 at the plate to lead Hayden. Brooke Hill was 2-for-3 for the Devils, with Murphy adding a double in the fourth.
The Wildcats (32-5-1) play their last area game at seventh-ranked Curry on Friday, and then close out the regular season Monday at Cullman. Jordan (18-13) hosts the Bearcats on Thursday and Curry on Saturday, then finishes off their regular season at home next Tuesday against Hoover.