REGIONAL SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT: West Point advances to North Regional Finals, Britton’s walk-off lifts Cullman over Gardendale

The West Point Lady Warriors defeated Pleasant Grove and Ardmore Wednesday to advance to the North Regional 5A Finals. (Nick Griffin/The Cullman Tribune)

FLORENCE, Ala. – Both the Cullman Lady Bearcats and Lady Warriors of West Point were back on the field at Coffee O’Neal Park in Florence Wednesday to compete at the North Regional Tournament and both teams got the day started with wins. West Point handled Pleasant Grove 15-0 in its opening round matchup and Olivia Britton extended Cullman’s season with a walk-off homerun in an elimination game against Gardendale. The Lady Warriors faced Ardmore in their second matchup of the day and took down the Lady Tigers in a pitcher’s duel 3-1 to secure a spot in Thursday’s 5A winner’s bracket finals against Hayden.

In their second game of the day, the Lady Bearcats faced off against the top-ranked Hartselle Lady Tigers and extended their postseason run with arguably their biggest win of the season. Cullman toppled its rival 2-1 thanks in large part to a dominant pitching performance from Brooklyn Morton and advance to the loser’s bracket final for a rematch against Mortimer Jordan Wednesday night with a State Tournament berth on the line.

West Point 15 – Pleasant Grove 0 (5A)

The Lady Warriors got off to a fast start at the North Regional Wednesday morning, hammering Pleasant Grove 15-0 to advance through the winner’s bracket. Macie Brown drew a walk with the bases loaded to bring Macayla Wilkins in to score in and give West Point a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. There were many more walks to come for the Lady Warriors.

After Carlie Wilkins retired the Lady Spartans in order in the top of the second, West Point took advantage of nine walks and three RBI singles in the bottom half of the inning to plate 12 runs and take a commanding, 13-0 lead into the third. Wilkins and Braelee Quinn each drew bases-loaded walks in the bottom of the third to bring in two more runs and secure a 15-0 win for the Lady Warriors.

Wilkins tossed two scoreless innings in the win, striking out five batters and posting a hit and four RBIs at the plate. Quinn pitched the third and final inning for West Point and added two RBIs as well. Brown (three RBIs) and Sidney Burks (one RBI) added the other two hits for the Lady Warriors.

West Point 3 – Ardmore 1 (5A)

Carlie Wilkins collected three strikeouts in the top of the first to get the Lady Warriors’ matchup against Ardmore started and West Point took an early lead in the bottom half of the inning. An error allowed Bethany Minck to cross the plate and make it a 1-0 game and Macie Brown ripped an RBI single into right field to tack on another run and make it 2-0 going into the second inning.

A pair of errors allowed Ardmore to get on the board in the top of the third and trim the lead to 2-1 going into the fourth. After a scoreless fourth inning, the Lady Tigers put a pair of runners in scoring position in the top of the fifth, but Wilkins worked her way out of the jam to preserve West Point’s 2-1 lead. Wilkins worked around a leadoff walk in the top of the sixth to keep Ardmore off the board and she led off the bottom half of the inning with a single up the middle. Braelee Quinn laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runner into scoring position and Brown brought Katie Beth Yovino home to score with an RBI single into center field. The Lady Warriors went into the top of the seventh with a 3-1 lead and just three outs away from a spot in the winner’s bracket finals.

Ardmore put runners at second and third with two outs but a fly ball to Alexis Kimbrill in center field ended the game and wrapped up a 3-1 win for West Point. Wilkins went the distance on the mound, allowing one run (unearned) on just five hits and collecting seven strikeouts.

Brown posted a pair of hits and a pair of RBIs in the win. Minck and Wilkins added hits for the Lady Warriors as well. West Point will return to Florence Thursday to play Hayden in the 5A winner’s bracket final at 12:15 p.m.

Cullman 7 – Gardendale 6 (6A)

The Lady Bearcats got off to a shaky start against Gardendale, falling behind 5-0 after the first two innings. However, Cullman began to chip away in the bottom of the third when Taylor Au shot a 2-run single into center field to cut the lead to 5-2 going into the fourth inning. The Lady Bearcats continued their comeback in their half of the fourth, scoring on an error and an RBI groundout from Reese Hopper to make it a 5-4 game going into the fifth.

An RBI single off the bat of Faith Guest drove in Savannah Davis and tied things up at 5 in the bottom of the fifth but the Lady Rockets responded with in the top half of the sixth to move back in front 6-5. Cullman went down in order in the bottom of the sixth but completed its comeback in the final frame. Carlie Burnham ripped a 2-out single into left field to put the tying run at first base and two pitches later, Olivia Britton crushed a 2-run walk-off homerun over the left field fence to give the Lady Bearcats a dramatic, 7-6 win and keep their postseason hopes alive.

Britton (HR) and Au (two hits) each posted a pair of RBIs in the win. Guest (one hit) and Brooklyn Morton (one hit) each drove in a run as well.

Cullman 2 – Hartselle 1 (6A)

Neither team could get the bats going against either starting pitcher through the first three innings, combining for just one hit in the first three frames. Brooklyn Morton worked her way through another scoreless frame in the top of the fourth and the Lady Bearcats were finally able to get on the board in their half of the inning.

Carlie Burnham drew a walk and Olivia Britton reached base on an error to give Cullman a pair of runners and Faith Guest smoked a 2-run double into left field to score both of them and put the ‘Cats in front 2-0 going into the fifth. After a scoreless fifth inning, Hartselle was finally able to get on the board as well, scoring on an RBI ground out to trim the lead to 2-1.

Cullman went into the top of the seventh holding onto its 2-1 lead, needing three more outs to advance to the loser’s bracket final. A walk, a single and an error allowed loaded up the bases with two outs for the Lady Tigers, but a fly ball caught by Guest left all the runners stranded and iced a massive, 2-1 victory for the Lady Bearcats.

Morton tossed a complete game in the circle, allowing just one run on seven hits against an explosive Hartselle lineup. Guest’s 2-run double was Cullman’s only hit in the win.

Mortimer Jordan 15 – Cullman 8 (6A Loser’s Bracket Final)

The Lady Bearcats fell behind 1-0 in the bottom of the first but after a scoreless second inning, they responded with four runs in the top of the third. Haley Shannon scored on an error to tie the game at 1 and two pitches later, an RBI single from Carlie Burnham put Cullman in front 2-1. Olivia Britton kept her big day going with a 2-run double into left field and the Lady Bearcats went into the bottom of the third leading 4-1.

Mortimer Jordan had an answer in the bottom half of the inning, leading things off with a solo homerun to cut the lead to 4-2. An error allowed another run to score later in the inning and a pair of RBI singles put the Lady Blue Devils back in front 5-4 going into the fourth. The momentum swung back towards Cullman’s dugout in the top of the fourth when Taylor Au drove a 2-run single into left field and reclaimed a 6-5 lead for the Lady Bearcats.

Unfortunately for the black & gold, Mortimer Jordan managed to put together a big fifth inning. The Lady Blue Devils strung together six hits and took advantage of a pair of errors to plate seven runs and build a 12-6 lead going into the sixth. Shannon and Au led off the top of the sixth with a single and a double and Savannah Davis brought them both home to score with a 2-run single into center field.

However, Mortimer Jordan continued adding to its lead in the sixth, tacking on three more runs to pull ahead 15-8. The Lady Bearcats couldn’t chip away any more than that and Cullman’s impressive Wednesday run at the North Regional ended with a 15-8 loss to the Lady Blue Devils.

Au (two hits), Davis (one hit) and Britton (one hit) each finished with a pair of RBIs in the loss. Burnham posted a pair of hits and an RBI for Cullman and Abby Maples added a pair of hits as well.

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