For the second time in is as many series in the Region 6-AAA Playoffs, the Calhoun Lady Jackets went to an opponent’s home field and earned a sweep. Now, they find themselves one step away from a sixth straight region title.
The Lady Jackets, the No. 3 seed from 6-AAA South, continued their surge through the region playoffs on Saturday as they traveled across town to rival Sonoraville and earned a sweep, thanks in large part to two gutsy pitching performances. Maggie McBrayer took the circle in Game 1 for Calhoun (20-8) and delivered a 10-inning, complete-game performance to lead the way to a 4-2 extra-innings victory, and then Blair Hall followed that up with a stellar effort of her own in Game 2 with a complete-game effort in a 3-1 Lady Jackets’ win.
Calhoun coach Diane Smith said she was very proud of both her pitchers, especially how they rebounded after giving up a run at different points of their outings. McBrayer allowed a run in the seventh to Sonoraville to tie the game at 1-1 and send the game to extras, and Hall allowed a run in the first inning of Game 2 but nothing else.
“(Maggie) held her composure there and took control of the game after that,” said Smith. “She finished that game in strong fashion after giving up the run. I knew if she and our defense kept putting up scoreless innings in that first game, I felt like our bats would come around. They got better and better as the game went on and we were able to put together a big rally in the 10th.
“And then Blair pitched very well even after giving up that early run in Game 2. I think once we scored and went ahead, it really made her more comfortable, and she shut them down from there. I’m proud of both of our pitchers today, delivering big performances. I’m proud of our whole team. We really put it together today.”
Calhoun now advances to the region championship series where they will visit LFO and look for their sixth straight region crown. The series will get going on Wednesday with a doubleheader starting at 4:30 p.m. If a Game 3 is necessary, it will be played on Thursday.
Sonoraville (16-13), who finished as the top seed from 6-AAA South, falls into the third-place series against Bremen. The Lady Phoenix will host on Wednesday with a doubleheader starting at 3 p.m. If a Game 3 is necessary, it will be played on Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
Saturday’s Game 1 saw both pitchers, Calhoun’s McBrayer and Sonoraville’s Kristen Davis, shut down the opposing offenses through the first five innings. Calhoun finally struck for a run in the top of the sixth when Adella Carver’s RBI-single drove home Carlie Henderson, who had doubled to lead off the inning.
Sonoraville came through with their backs against the wall, however, trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh, as Shayna Dutton stepped up and roped a one-out, pinch-hit single to drive home pinch-runner Deya Irick and tie the game at 1-1. McBrayer was able to limit the damage right there, stranding a Sonoraville runner at third to end the inning and force extras.
After the two teams traded scoreless frames, Calhoun finally broke through in the 10th with four straight hits to lead off the inning and drive in three runs. Audrey Wilbanks had a two-run single, and Hannah Mashburn followed with an RBI-single to make it 4-1.
Sonoraville’s Sandra Beth Pritchett drove home a run in the bottom of the 10th on a groundout, but McBrayer finished things off for Calhoun. The freshman ended up going 10 innings and giving up two runs on six hits, while striking out nine to earn the win. Sonoraville’s Davis was impressive as well, going 10 innings and allowing four runs while striking out 13 to take the tough-luck loss.
Offensively for Calhoun in Game 1, Henderson had three hits, including a double, and a run scored, Carver and Mashburn each had two hits and an RBI and Wilbanks drove in the other run. Anna Taylor also had two hits and a run scored.
Davis had two hits for the Lady Phoenix in Game 1, and Dutton and Pritchett each had a hit and an RBI. Karley Thomas also had a hit and a run scored.
Game 2 started off well for Sonoraville as Griffin Holden came through with an RBI-groundout to drive in Harleigh Chastain and give the Lady Phoenix a 1-0 lead, but Hall buckled down from there and erased every other scoring chance by working out of multiple jams. Hall wend seven innings and gave up one run on six hits while striking out six to earn the win. She also helped her own cause with an RBI-single in the third to put her team a head after a sac fly from Lyndi Rae Davis had tied it up earlier in the inning. Hall finished 3-for-3 at the plate in Game 2.
Henderson and Mashburn each added a hit and a run scored for Calhoun with Henderson’s being a double, Carver had two hits and Erin Barnes scored a run.
Sonoraville once again got a solid performance in the circle in Game 2 in the loss as Alyssa Hughes started and went four innings, giving up three runs (all unearned) on six hits while striking out two. Kelsey Hughes came on to pitch two innings of scoreless relief, giving up just two hits.
Sonoraville coach Chad Hayes said it was a tough way to end his team’s hopes of winning their first region title, but it just wasn’t their day on Saturday.
“I think what makes it worse is it being a rival,” said Hayes. “I think we are the two best teams in the region, and to me this was the de facto region championship even though it was in the semifinals. We played well, we just didn’t get enough breaks, get any calls and didn’t make enough plays. We had chances in Game 1 to win it, which would’ve completely changed the momentum of the series, but we didn’t take advantage.
“We’re going to play a good team in the next round so we can’t let this carry over. I know our kids will battle back and respond.”
Smith said she felt good about how her team was going to play coming into Saturday, and that they are confident they can accomplish their goal of winning another region title now that a whole new season has started in the playoffs.
“I was confident today before the games because the girls seemed really upbeat and comfortable warming up,” said Smith. “They were all talking and building each other up and were in a good mood, plus we had some good practices the last few days so I felt confident.
“We’re ready for the finals. We just have to forget what happened to us earlier in the season because a new season started the other day when we opened up the region playoffs. Our goal is to win it, and I think we have the ability and talent to do that.”