MADISON — You rarely have to win the same game twice, but no matter how it happened, the end result on Wednesday night was Sonoraville clinching a trip to the Class AAA Elite Eight in Columbus next week.
The Lady Phoenix completed a second-round sweep of Morgan County with a walk-off double by Payton Townsend in the eighth inning of Game 2 of their road doubleheader to secure the program’s second-ever trip to the Elite Eight. The dramatic hit followed what appeared to be a game-winning bases-loaded walk in the previous inning, but since the players didn’t complete the play by touching the next base before celebrating, Morgan County was awarded two outs to end the threat and send the game to extras.
Sonoraville coach Chad Hayes said his team didn’t let the sudden turn of events in the seventh inning of Game 2 deter them from the goal at hand, which was a snapshot of the entire season for the Lady Phoenix (20-15), who has battled through many obstacles.
“We’ve had to overcome so much adversity this year…so that ending tonight, I guess we wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Hayes with a smile. “The girls got caught up in the moment in the seventh when we drew that walk, and we didn’t complete the play. That could’ve really shifted the momentum the other way, but our girls came right back out and shut them down in the top of the eighth and scored the big run in the bottom half. We found a way at the end. Payton came up huge right there, and we had so many girls step up all day. I’m so proud of these girls to stay focused and find a way to win.”
After winning Game 1, 10-4, on Wednesday thanks in large part to a nine-run fifth inning, Sonoraville immediately took a 2-0 lead in the first inning of Game 2. But Morgan County (16-20) refused to go away as they continued to battle and eventually tied the game with two runs in the third.
After the pitchers went back and forth for several innings with scoreless frames, the Lady Bulldogs grabbed the lead with two runs scoring on an error in the sixth to go up 4-2.
Sonoraville was down to what looked to be their last at-bat in the bottom of the seventh to try and avoid a possible split, and they came through clutch. Sandra Beth Pritchett hammered a solo homer over the left-field fence to pull her team within one, and Kristen Davis then singled right after her. Katie Williams, who had come on to courtesy run for Davis, then attempted a steal and the throw to second got away and rolled all the way to the fence to allow Williams to score the game-tying run.
Townsend followed with a triple, and then Griffin Holden and Alyssa Hughes both walked to load the bases with no outs. After Morgan County got one out at the plate on a fielder’s choice, Dutton stepped to the plate and drew the one-out walk, which appeared to end the game.
Even after the wild end to the seventh, Sonoraville came right back and shut down the Lady Bulldogs in the top of the eighth to set themselves up for the game-clincher in the bottom half of the inning. Harleigh Chastain walked to lead off the inning, Davis then reached on an error with one out and Townsend drilled one to the right-center field gap to bring Chastain home and send the Lady Phoenix to the Elite Eight.
Hayes said he was pleased with how his offense came through big in both games, exploding for the nine-run fifth in Game 1 and coming up with three clutch runs in the seventh and eighth of Game 2.
“In the first game, we knew there was going to be some adjustments, and it might take a time or two through the lineup to get the timing down,” said Hayes. “Once we did, we were able to put together the big inning. In the second game, they brought in (Alissa) Webb in the first and credit to her, she pitched really well. But we kept battling and we found a way. To come back like that in the seventh with our backs against the wall and then finish it in the eighth, I’m so proud of everybody. This was a total team effort, and we found a way to get it done.”
Chastain had a big series from the leadoff spot with five hits combined between the two games, including a double, two RBIs and three runs scored, and Pritchett went deep in both games for a three-run homer in Game 1 and a solo homer in Game 2. Townsend was 3-for-4 with a triple, double and an RBI in Game 2 to go along with a hit in Game 1, and Davis had four total hits between the two games and an RBI.
Holden came through with a hit, an RBI and drew five walks in the two games, McKenzie Green doubled, drove in a run and scored two runs in Game 1, and Karley Thomas added a hit, and RBI and two runs scored in Game 1. Hughes also had an RBI in Game 1.
Davis was solid in the circle, earning the win in both games. She went all seven in Game 1 for the complete-game effort, allowing four runs on nine hits while striking out three. She came on in relief in the third inning of Game 2 and went the rest of the way, giving up three hits, two runs (both unearned) and striking out six.
Hughes started Game 2 and went 2 1-3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits.
The Lady Phoenix will open Elite Eight play in Columbus on Thursday as they battle Worth County in the first game at 5 p.m. Pritchett, a sophomore, said she is excited to be a part of the team making it back to Columbus for the second time in three years and feels really good about their chances.
“We know our seniors got to go two years ago, and we really wanted to make it back for them,” said Pritchett. “It’s going to be great to get to experience that. We are very confident going in. I think we can go all the way.”
Hayes said he believed this team had the potential all along to make it this far, and he can’t wait for his team to stack up against the best teams in Class AAA.
“I knew when we started practice this summer that this was probably the most talented team I’ve had here from top to bottom,” said Hayes. “And when we’ve played together, we’re as good as anybody in the state. I can’t imagine us going up against anybody down there and not feeling good about our chances. We’re confident.”