West Point High School claimed its fifth straight Cullman County Softball Tournament championship title with a 13-6 win over Good Hope tonight. Olivia Ball led the way for the Lady Warriors, going 3-for-4 with two home runs and five RBIs. (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)
HANCEVILLE – The Lady Raiders of Good Hope played their way into this year’s title game with a 13-7 win over Fairview to start Thursday’s Cullman County Softball Tournament action. Bailey Swann led Good Hope at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI, and the Lady Raiders got a big lift on the mound from Skylar Tucker in the fourth. After scoring seven runs in the first three innings, Tucker held the Lady Aggies scoreless for the rest of the game and allowed Good Hope’s bats to take over and pull away.
The championship matchup with West Point was back and forth early on. After the Lady Warriors pushed one across in the top of the first, Good Hope responded with three runs in the bottom half of the inning. Some errors from the West Point defense allowed the first two runs to cross and Rebecca Norris brought Angelina Flanagan home for a third run with a sac fly into center field.
Before Good Hope could get comfortable with its 3-1 advantage, West Point answered quickly with three more runs in the second to retake the lead. Carlie Wilkins made it home on an error in the outfield just before Avery McClure tripled into right field and plated another run. Olivia Ball collected her first RBI of the day later in the inning with a single to left that brought McClure around to score and gave the Lady Warriors a 4-3 lead after two.
West Point managed to bring in another run on a bases-loaded walk in the third, but after that, the Lady Raiders started swinging the bats again. Jacqueline Hays drove in Flanagan with a single up the middle to make it 5-4 and Swann tied it at five when she crossed the plate on a fielder’s choice.
With the game tied at five, both defenses cruised through the fourth and fifth innings with no scoring, but the Lady Warriors started to blow the game open in the top of the sixth. Ball barreled up a two-run shot to give West Point a 7-5 lead and two more bases-loaded walks brought two more runs in to make it 9-5 after six.
The Lady Warriors weren’t done after that. Ball sent a second pitch over the center-field fence to put West Point ahead 11-5 and just a few pitches later Makayla Brown followed with a solo shot of her own. Hope Shedd made her way home on a fielder’s choice later in the seventh and gave West Point a healthy 13-5 lead with just three outs remaining for Good Hope. The Lady Raiders got one run home on a fielder’s choice but couldn’t put together a rally to get back into the game, falling 13-6. After the Lady Raiders put up five runs in the first three innings, West Point’s starter on the mound Carlie Wilkins held them to just one run on five hits in the final four frames.
After the game, West Point’s Ball talked about the pitches she saw on her home run swings and how important they were for taking the momentum late in the game.
“They were perfect. I was just up there waiting for my pitch and I was hoping I wouldn’t get walked,” Ball joked. “That just got the momentum going, got everybody up and going and just got everybody ready for the next inning.”
Ball has been part of three Cullman County Softball Championships, but for her, the most satisfying part of the wins is sending the seniors out with the streak intact.
“I just love it for all the seniors,” Ball said. “I love keeping it going for them, that’s the big thing.”
Lady Warriors Head Coach Steven Harbison talked about how important the energy of the dugout was for his team late in the game when they had an opportunity to get back in front.
“They were awesome. They were really fired up in the dugout and that makes all the difference for the team, just having that support there to help them out,” Harbison said. “We’ve been struggling this season, but they really turn it on at the right time and it was awesome. Great game, Good Hope really played well.”
Ball was named the tournament’s offensive MVP after the game and Harbison is happy to have her in the lineup and as a leader in the dugout.
“She’s great, she’s my hero,” Harbison joked. “She does that for us on a regular basis. She’s just a great hitter, a great ball player, a great influence in the dugout and just a great kid all around.”
This is Harbison’s first year with the Lady Warriors but he’s already becoming very familiar with the program’s winning tradition.
“It’s amazing, just amazing. This is my first year here and I’m just now getting a taste of this culture, but they’ve always had this winning culture and tradition going on here and it’s just great to be a part of it,” Harbison said. “It’s great, I’m just so proud of our girls.”
2018 Cullman County Softball All-Tournament Team, awarded after the Championship Game, voted on by the coaches
- Olivia Ball, West Point (Offensive MVP)
- Hope Shedd, West Point
- Avery McClure, West Point
- Makayla Brown, West Point
- Katie Ball, Fairview
- Ally Hogeland, Fairview
- Bailey Swann, Good Hope (Defensive MVP)
- Erika Woodall, Good Hope
- Skylar Tucker, Good Hope
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