KIMBERLY — With the game tied at 1-1 going into the bottom of the eighth inning, Hayden softball coach John Simmons tried to shake things up a bit. He replaced his young-but-trusty lead-off hitter Meleah Hargett with pinch hitter Evin Bibb, who promptly got on board with a hit.
That move didn’t end up the way he wanted, as Hargett (returning to the game to run) was picked off at third base as Brooke Meadows moved her around. But then Meadows scored the winning run when Curry’s catcher overthrew third base in a pickoff attempt, as the Wildcats won a 2-1 heavyweight battle late Thursday night.
The victory in the winner’s bracket second round of the Class 5A Area 12 Tournament put the Cats into the championship game, and more importantly punched their tickets for the regional tournament next week in Tuscaloosa.
With two teams noted for their ace pitchers, runs were bound to be at a premium.
The Yellow Jackets struck first in the second inning, as Haleigh Lane led the inning off with a double, and came around to score on a hit by Gabby Englebert.
Hayden tied the game in the next inning on back-to-back one-out triples, first by Meadows and then by third baseman Katie Parr. But Parr was put out at home plate on the back end of a double play, as pitcher Caitlin Kirkland flew out to short right field — shallow enough to allow Englebert to fire a strike to catcher Emily Aaron, who withstood the slide by the much-larger Parr.
Kirkland was in command from the circle. After the run in the second and a one-out hit in the third, Kirkland retired 16 consecutive Curry batters to take her into the extra inning.
It was there that Kirkland ran into trouble, giving up three straight two-out singles. But the Wildcats were bailed out when pitcher Holli McGinnis tried to score on a base hit by Logan Black. Catcher Madalyn McMickin dropped the ball as McGinnis came charging in, but McGinnis was called out for sliding with excessive force — a call which caused loud protests from Yellow Jacket coaches and fans.