MONTGOMERY—The Gardendale softball team will play for a state championship on Friday in Lagoon Park.
The third-ranked Rockets took down No. 2 Buckhorn in the Class 6A State Tournament semifinals on Thursday, pairing them with the winner of Buckhorn-Brookwood in the championship series on Friday. Gardendale (48-6-2) needs just one win in the finals series and would have to lose twice to finish as the runner-up in 6A.
Game 1 is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. with an if-needed game to follow at 3 p.m.
It was a two-out rally in the top of the fourth that lifted the Rockets over Buckhorn. The rally started with back-to-back singles by Riley Phillips and Kailey Vaughn. Abbie Waters and Carlee McCondichie took turns driving them in for a 3-1 advantage that later went final.
Waters legged out a run-scoring infield single followed by a McCondichie slap through the 5-6 hole. The Auburn signee also homered to right field in the third frame to jump ahead 1-0.
Junior righty Haley Horton relieved starter Kaitlyn Clark in the fifth, and held the 3-1 lead down with three shutout innings. Horton retired nine of the 10 batters she faced, two of them via strikeout. She walked Laura Harbin in the sixth, but held her on base with two straight groundouts.
Her style in the circle contrasts well with Clark’s riseball pitching.
“Coach [Barry Brake] told us that we were going to try things different this time and that we’re going to have to work as a team if we want to win this,” said Horton. “I couldn’t be happier that I pitched with Kaitlyn [Clark] and I’m going to be sad when she goes.”
“People always tell me that I’m more spin and I work low, while Clark has a crazy riseball and she’s about speed; she’s really good,” continued Horton.
Through the first four innings on Thursday, Clark allowed one run on four hits while striking out two and allowing no walks.
Senior Riley Phillips, a Bevill State Community College signee, went 2 for 3 at the plate.