Horseshoe Bend knew how to keep the games close all season long against RCHS, and that held true during the area tournament last Thursday. But staying close and winning are two different things, a point that RCHS drove home in dramatic fashion.
The Lady Tigers got a three-run home run by Talee Sims in the bottom of the sixth inning of the area championship game to erase a 3-1 deficit and win the area title by a score of 4-3.
That was after RCHS eked out a 4-0 victory in the first game between the two teams earlier in the day.
With the area championship – the second straight for RCHS – the Lady Tigers advance to play in the Central Regional in Montgomery starting Thursday morning.
The two tournament games between RCHS and Horseshoe Bend were a continuation of a closely contested but one-sided series between the two teams. RCHS won the regular season matchups by scores of 7-4 and 2-1 in games that were not decided until the late innings.
That pattern held true in the title game Thursday, with RCHS falling behind 3-0 and trailing 3-1 into the sixth inning.
The Lady Generals scored three in the first inning, all with two outs, as they strung together three singles and a walk against RCHS starting pitcher Lexi Key.
But Key settled in after that and allowed just two more hits the rest of the game. That proved to be a critical performance as RCHS’s only run through the first five innings came on an RBI double by Kaitie Overton that scored Laura Fendley.
But the bats finally woke up in the sixth when Key and Brantlee Wortham started the inning with a single and a double, respectively. They were at second and third with nobody out when Sims crushed her 12th home run of the season – and second of the day – to left field to set off a raucous celebration at home plate among her teammates.
Key made sure that Sims’s heroics were not in vain as she worked around a leadoff walk in the seventh to get the final three outs and give RCHS the title.
Sims was one of eight RCHS hitters that had exactly one hit each against Horseshoe Bend pitcher Lily Moss.
Key relied on solid command and a strong defensive effort to pick up the win – her second of the day and 18th of the season. She did not record a strikeout, but she walked just two hitters and allowed five hits, while the defense played error-free behind her.
That win gave RCHS the top seed out of 2A, Area 8, which puts them in a first-round game against Area 6 runner-up Isabella in the Central Regional at 10:45 a.m. Thursday.
RCHS 4, Horseshoe Bend 0
Lexi Key pitched a four-hit shutout, and RCHS got the only run it would need on an RBI single by Chaluncie Denny in the second innings as they held on for a 4-0 win over Horseshoe Bend in the first meeting between the two teams Thursday in Wedowee.
That win gave RCHS a spot in the area championship game, while Horseshoe Bend had to fend off Ranburne in a subsequent game to meet up with RCHS again.
Horseshoe Bend pitcher Brooke Milner took the role of chief nemesis for RCHS in that first game. Milner had two of the four hits for her team and held the RCHS offense mostly in check.
Denny’s run-scoring single in the second came with two outs in the inning and broke an early scoreless tie. One inning later Talee Sims launched a solo home run to left to give her team a 2-0 cushion.
That’s how the score stood until the sixth inning when Brantlee Wortham reached on an error and Sims followed that with a walk. The two moved to second and third on a wild pitch, then both players scored – Wortham from third and Sims from second – on another wild pitch to put RCHS up 4-0.
Key got the final three outs in the seventh in another game in which the RCHS defense did not commit an error.
Denny finished 1-for-4 with an RBI, and Sims went 1-for-2 with the home run, two walks and two runs scored. Ansley Pike and Wortham both went 1-for-4 and scored a run.