In what turned out to be an ascendant and decorated evening for the Sonoraville softball program all around, the Lady Phoenix leaned on its reliable formula of unshakeable starting pitching and timely hitting to coast past the visiting North Hall Lady Trojans in a two game sweep to advance to the Sweet 16 of the state playoffs, marking the third time the team has been there in the past four seasons.
In addition to snagging a pair of 2-0 victories over the Lady Trojans (13-16, 8-5 in Region 7-AAA), the Lady Phoenix (24-5, 14-1 in Region 6-AAA) capped off special the special night by honoring its six seniors. Therefore it was only appropriate that Kristen Davis submitted perhaps her most dominant career pitching effort in Game 1, pitching a no-hitter, while striking out 11 and walking only one. The one walk cost her a perfect game bid.
“Kristen threw a phenomenal game yesterday,” Sonoraville head coach Chad Hayes said. “She was a walk shy of a perfect game, but faced the minimum 21 through seven. She got ahead in counts, hit her spots and really challenged their hitters. When she is on like that she's tough to hit against.”
Davis even supported her own cause at the plate, putting the Lady Phoenix on the board in Game 1, driving in Karley Thomas with a RBI-single in the first, who had earlier logged a walk and stolen base to advance into scoring position.
Davis wasn’t finished at the dish, doubling to lead off the inning, which proved key when her courtesy runner, Deya Irick, sprinted home on a double steal for the team’s second and final run of Game 1.
The Lady Phoenix leaned on a similar equation in Game 2, with freshman Taylor Long patrolling the circle.
Long picked up right where Davis left off, displaying a glimpse into window into her bright future after Davis continued to cement her legacy as a senior. Long struck out seven and allowed just one free pass over five strong shutout innings. Davis then flexed her versatility once again, picking up the save in relief and striking out four while permitting no hits over two innings.
“Taylor has really thrown well,” Hayes said. “We knew she would need to give us some quality starts and innings down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs and she has came up big in that role for us.”
“I am very proud of how she has thrown in these big games late in the season and especially last night. She gave up a hit to the lead off batter, put it behind her, and shut them down from there.”
It wasn’t the most prolific contest for the Lady Phoenix lineup, but the group did more than enough to support such steady starting pitching. Sonoraville scratched across a run on an error in the third inning, and an addition run when Shayna Dutton doubled home Katie Williams in the fifth.
Davis was a threat again in the batter’s box, notching two more hits. Grace Fitzwater, Griffin Holden and Thomas also chipped in hits in Game 2.
I think we were pressing (at the plate), trying to do too much,” Hayes said. “We chased some balls out of the zone and put ourselves behind in counts. We made things easy on them with strikeouts and pop flies.”
“We need to square more balls up hitting line drives and hard ground balls and put more pressure on the defense. When we got runners on we were able to move them over and get them in, we just have to be more consistent in that aspect.”
The Lady Phoenix then celebrated the contributions made by its six seniors, including Davis, Irick, Holden, Fitzwater, Emma Garland and Sarah-Anne Arthur, due to the original ceremony getting rained out a couple of weeks ago. Even though ideally the season is far from over, Hayes emphasized that its important to acknowledge how much all these players have accomplished.
“This group will have quite the legacy when they finish up,” Hayes said. “I am very proud of them and everything they have done for the program over the years. It'll be a tough group to replace in a lot of aspects, not just on the field, but they aren't finished yet.”
The Lady Phoenix will look to extend its season as it hosts Morgan County for a doubleheader starting at 5:30. The “if” game will be played on Thursday.