By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
— Corner took the express lane, while Hayden took the back roads with lots of twists and turns.
In the end, both teams will arrive at their destination later this week, as both teams advanced to the AHSAA State Softball Championships at Montgomery.
The Yellow Jackets made short work of the Class 4A field at the South Central Regional Qualifying Tournament in Troy, winning three straight games.
Not so for the Wildcats at the North Central Regional in Tuscaloosa. They lost a game to McAdory that started late on Friday night, and was suspended and restarted at 7 Saturday morning. Hayden stormed back to shut out three straight opponents in the loser’s bracket and take the second qualifying spot from the region. (Curry, whom the Wildcats defeated in the Area 12 tournament, went 3-0 to win the other state berth.)
Corner and Hayden were two of five local teams to compete at the regional level. Gardendale came up one game short in Class 6A with a loss to Hueytown; Locust Fork staged a last-inning comeback Friday night to stay alive, only to be eliminated the next morning; and Fultondale went two games and out on Friday.
Corner: The fifth-ranked Yellow Jackets were “three and won” after a 10-1 victory over No. 6 Holtville.
Jordan Entrekin had the big bat out against the Bulldogs, hitting a two-run homer that knocked out Holtville starting pitcher Lori Beth Garrner, plus a run-scoring double.
The two teams stayed scoreless until the fourth inning, when Morgan Daniel drove in the first run on a single to left, followed by a Baylee McCormack RBI double.
Madison McCormack pitched all seven innings, striking out 10 Bulldog batters while allowing three hits and two walks.
The Jackets started the day with a win over 10th-ranked Calera, but it took a big effort in the bottom of the sixth inning to make it happen.
With the score tied 3-3, Alex “Scooter” Oates hit into an error on a fly ball to left field that scored two runs. Winning pitcher Madison McCormack then smashed a home run to left that brought in Oates; she also struck out nine Eagle batters.
In their second game against Beauregard, Entrekin and Madison McCormack combined to throw a one-hitter. Entrekin also drove in three runs on a double, single and sacrifice fly.
Taylor Sloan also had three RBIs but did not record a hit; she drove in runs on two separate sacrifices, and then scored on an unusual four-base error in the sixth.
Hayden: The Wildcats opened with a 2-0 win over Springville, then had to wait until very late for their second round game against McAdory because of rain delays earlier.
The teams made it only as far as the middle of the fifth with a 4-3 Wildcat lead before a 12:30 a.m. curfew caused the game to be suspended until 7 later that morning. When play resumed, the Yellow Jackets scored two more runs to win 5-4.
Those four runs were the only ones the Wildcats allowed all weekend, as they won their next three games via shutouts. They came back with a 1-0 win over Moody, as pitcher Caitlin Kirkland threw a no-hitter, missing a perfect game by one hit-by-pitch. Katie Parr drove in the lone run with a double to score Brooke Meadows.
The Wildcats then blanked Springville 2-0, and beat McAdory 5-0 in a rematch that determined the second state qualifier. Kirkland allowed just three hits in the final, and pitched most of Hayden’s innings for the weekend.
Gardendale: After losing their opener 2-0 to Vestavia Hills on a homer by Taylor Coe, the Rockets took out Tuscaloosa County 7-3, and then edged Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa 2-1. Gardendale was eliminated by Hueytown in a 1-0 game, with freshman Taylor Doriety’s double driving in the lone run.
Locust Fork: Pitcher Christian Rhodes struck out 12 and gave up one hit in the opener against Cleburne County, but the one hit was a triple, with the runner scoring on the next play when Rhoads tried to double her off third after a pop-up and overthrew.
The Hornets staged a miracle comeback in their next game, scoring on a two-run hit by Anna Hood and a two-out, two-run bunt single by Bailey McCay to eliminate Crossville 6-3. The end came for the Hornets in the next round, as they fell to area nemesis St. Clair County 15-0 in four innings.
Fultondale: It was a quick two-and-out for the Wildcats on Friday, as they lost to Hale County 11-0 and Pleasant Valley 14-3, both in five innings.