RCHS made a statement with its bats in game one, got a shutdown pitching performance in game two, and then bowed out of the East Central regional when both aspects of its game failed to make an impact in game three.
The Lady Tigers lasted until the second day of the tournament, but that was the case for every 3A team after rain washed out all of Thursday’s scheduled second-round games and forced the AHSAA to improvise a condensed schedule in an expanded venue on Friday.
That’s how RCHS ended up at Oxford Lake park on Friday, instead of at the main stage of Choccolocco Park one interstate exit away.
RCHS got things started Thursday morning with a 16-10 defeat at the hands of Prattville Christian. The score may not portray any exceptional excellence on RCHS’s part. But the game goes down as perhaps the most impressive loss in the 3A tournament, a small consolation prize for a team that came shockingly close to pulling off a stunning first-round upset.
Prattville Christian entered the tournament as the defending 3A state champions. The Lady Panthers were the state’s top-ranked team entering the postseason, according the ASWA polls, and they began the regional with a record of 39-7-1. In 36 of those 39 wins they had allowed two or fewer runs.
The 10-spot that RCHS put up matched the most runs that any team had scored against Prattville Christian all season.
RCHS trailed 9-2 after three innings and appeared to be well on its way to a first-round blowout loss. But the Lady Tigers took advantage of an ill-fated pitching change by the Lady Panthers and roared back into the game.
Prattville Christian ace Landyn McAnnally started the game and surrendered single runs in the first and third innings on RBI hits by Keisley Cotton and Kaylee Robinson. With the game well in hand the Lady Panthers’ coaching staff opted to rest McAnnally and allow Paisley Wilson to get some work to start the fourth inning.
RCHS pounced on Wilson, ripping four hits and scoring three runs before the Lady Panthers decided they needed to get McAnnally back in there. Robinson greeted her with a two-run triple and just like that RCHS had cut the lead to 9-7.
Prattville Christian got the lead back up to 11-7 with a pair of runs in the fifth, but RCHS once again hit the comeback trail against McAnnally in the sixth. Back-to-back two-out hits from Robinson and Katie Pike drove home three runs.
Pike’s hit was a triple into the right field corner, and when the throw back to the infield got away from the second baseman, Pike attempted to come home with what would have been the tying run. But she was thrown out at the plate, and that turned out to be RCHS’s last stand in the game.
Prattville Christian scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth, and that was all she wrote on the Lady Tigers’ shot at an upset.
Robinson was nearly unstoppable at the plate for RCHS as she went 3-for-4 with four RBI. Nia Green was 2-for-2 with a triple, was hit by a pitch and scored three runs out of the number nine spot in the order.
The first two hitters in Prattville Christian’s lineup were a headache for RCHS pitchers all game as Madison Hanson and Callie McAnnally combined to go 8-for-9 and score seven of their team’s 16 runs.
RCHS 2, Gordo 1
After Thursday’s rainouts, RCHS returned to action Friday morning for an elimination game against Gordo. The Lady Tigers were riding high from Thursday’s offensive outburst, so naturally they found themselves in a game dominated on both sides by pitching and defense.
Green got the start in the circle for RCHS and worked in near-flawless tandem with her defense to hold Gordo scoreless on just two hits through the first five innings.
Unlike the day before though, the RCHS offense could not get anything going against Gordo pitcher Bethany Vintson.
Their only two runs came in the second inning when Cotton reached on a leadoff walk and came around to score on a two-base error in left field off the bat of Emma Prestridge with two outs in the inning. Green then provided what proved to be the game-winning run with an RBI single that scored Prestridge and put RCHS ahead 2-0.
Gordo’s only run came in the sixth to cut the lead to 2-1, but the game did not end without some drama in the bottom of the seventh.
Gordo got back-to-back singles with one out, and those runners advanced to second and third on a groundout to short. But Green got Vintson to fly out to shallow right field to leave those potential game-winning runs stranded and give RCHS the victory.
After ripping 13 hits against Prattville Christian and losing, RCHS managed just three hits against Gordo and won. Prestridge, Green and Kaylee Robinson all went 1-for-3.
Hale County 9, RCHS 3
RCHS staved off elimination once, but couldn’t do it a second time as they fell to eventual state tournament qualifier Hale County 9-3 on Friday.
RCHS held an early 2-1 lead, but Hale County scored three in the second, and three more in the fourth to build a 7-2 lead before RCHS finally put a serious threat together in the fifth.
The Lady Tigers took advantage of two walks and an error to load the bases with nobody out. But Christa Marable struck out, and Kaylee Robinson hit a line-drive that was caught and turned into a double play to end the inning and a prime scoring opportunity.
RCHS once again loaded the bases in the sixth, this time with one out. But they managed just one run on an RBI single by Zoe Johnson. That run cut the lead to 9-3, but it proved to be the final run of the season for RCHS.
The Lady Tigers went 1-2 in the regional, but both losses came to the two teams that ended up advancing to the state tournament. RCHS finishes the year with a record of 22-18.