PREP SOFTBALL: Lady Raiders headed to Montgomery with one goal in mind

The Lady Raiders will face off against Alabama Christian Academy Friday morning at 10:45 in the 4A State Softball Tournament. (Photos by Martha Needham and Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Good Hope’s 2019 softball season up to this point has been nothing short of incredible under new head coach Tim Tucker, as they won 9 out of their first 11 games to start out their campaign. The next five games saw the Lady Raiders rack up over 10 runs in each contest. 

In the Gulf Coast Classic III, Good Hope continued their strong run, stretching the winning streak to 10 in a row, before falling to Wicksburg 3-2 as they finished 9th in the Classic. After falling to J.B. Pennington in their next game, the Lady Raiders defeated Oneonta in an area contest before traveling to Holly Pond for the Cullman County Tournament on April 10th. They used some late heroics by Bailey Swann to get by Cold Springs in its opening game 7-5 then they rolled by Hanceville 13-1 in the next round.

Good Hope took on West Point in the county championship game, looking to win the county title, but the Lady Warriors wound up winning 5-3. The Lady Raiders quickly bounced back as they won its final two area games of the season and added a Senior Night win over Arab 9-2 to close out the regular season with a 25-6 record. 

They went 1-3 in the Cullman Pre-State Softball Invitational at Cullman. Good Hope quickly bounced back in the Class 4A, Area 12 tournament, defeating Fairview 5-1 and rolled past Ashville 16-0 before defeating the Lady Bulldogs in a rematch in the title game 9-3.

The Lady Raiders played in the West Central Regional, and despite being delayed numerous times because of weather, kept their eyes on the prize as they defeated Handley 11-6. They pulled away late to knock off Hokes Bluff 4-1 in a game that was shortened to five innings because it was midnight and were declared the winners the next morning. In the championship game against White Plains, Swann came up clutch for Good Hope, hitting a walk-off RBI double to give them a 2-1 win and a spot in the Class 4A State Tournament in Montgomery.

They will take on no. 1 Alabama Christian Academy on Friday at 10:45 a.m. at Lagoon Park in Montgomery. Good Hope has gotten to this point in the season because of some incredible games on offense, led by Bailey Swann, Morgan Goodwin, Skylar Tucker, Sidnie English and Angelina Flanigan to name a few and their defense is one of the best in Class 4A.

English, along with Abby Hunt, have pitched some great games this season and they’ve been really aggressive when it comes to stealing bases. The Lady Raiders have seen some young talent really step up their game and that makes them even more dangerous. All of those things will be keys for Good Hope when they face the Lady Eagles on Friday.

The Lady Raiders faced some unusual obstacles in their path through the regional tournament, being constantly interrupted by the weather. Tucker

“We did have to face a lot of adversity. Every game we played in was affected by weather. We played in some pretty horrible field conditions with a lot of starting and stopping and not really knowing what time you were going to play,” Tucker said. “I contribute a lot of it to our seniors, having five seniors helped a lot in that situation by really staying focused and keeping the team on track and staying energetic for the whole tournament. It was an all-around great team effort to put up with all the adversity that we faced.”

Good Hope will start its state tournament run with a matchup against the top-ranked team in class 4A, Alabama Christian Academy. Tucker hasn’t seen much of the Lady Eagles this season, but they do share a common opponent with the Lady Raiders.

“They’re a very good team, they’re ranked no. 1 in 4A, and they’ve been that way pretty much all year,” Tucker said. “I know Dale County won their regional and knocked Alabama Christian off and we played Dale County down at the Gulf Shores Tournament and won that game 4-0 but that was the middle of March and a lot has happened since then.”

When asked about his team’s consistent success throughout this season, Tucker went back to his core of seniors and the goals they set in place before the season started.

“I would say what has made us consistently good goes back to our senior leadership and the goals they set early on in the year. Good Hope’s had a bad run the last three of four years in the area tournament, you know,” Tucker said. “They’ve had a bitter taste in their mouth and didn’t want that to happen again. So, they were pretty locked in all year with the goal of making it to the regionals and having a shot at state and they never lost sight of that goal all year.”

Coach thinks his team is playing their best ball of the season right now and can’t wait to see them in action in Montgomery on Friday.

“I think Friday against White Plains we played our best game of the year in all three phases. I think the girls are very motivated now and they believe. I talked to several of them yesterday and they’re really believing that they have a shot to go through the whole thing,” Tucker said. “They’re pumped and ready and really feel good about their chances and I do too. They’re some really good teams down there in the top eight and they’re there for a reason and I think we’re one of them.”

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