Cardinals drop conference DH to Shelton State

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By Stan Veitch/Sports Correspondent

The Gadsden State softball team gave it the old college try on Tuesday (March 29), but in the end, Shelton State was too strong, taking the Alabama Community College Conference doubleheader, 4-2 and 4-3.

The first game started out as a pitching duel and remained that way through the fourth inning. 

In the top of the fourth, Shelton loaded the bases with no outs against Koree Croley. But Croley settled down and got three consecutive outs, including a grounder that Cardinal third baseman Katie McGinnis picked up and got the force out at home plate.

McGinnis was also responsible for the next two outs, catching a line drive and picking up a grounder close to the bag.

“I didn’t pitch any different,” Croley said. “I just buckled down and made my pitches count.”

The bottom of the fourth was similar, as McGinnis led off with a single. Morgan Cobb hit a perfect sacrifice bunt that got McGinnis to second. Madison Shanks followed with a walk, but Shelton pitcher Kim Crowson got the next two outs on a pop-up and a strikeout.

“(Crowson) is probably the best pitcher in the state,” Gadsden State coach Shane Sanderson said. 

The Bucs broke the goose egg in the sixth, as Tanner Brown hit a leadoff homer. It appeared that the next batter, Courtney Richardson, also hit a homer, but it was ruled foul down the left field line.

Shelton State scored three more times in the seventh, essentially putting the game out of reach. Two Gadsden State errors didn’t help matters.

The Cardinals (19-10, 6-6) finally broke through in the bottom of the seventh. 

Leadoff batter Taylor Payne was hit by a pitch. Tiffany Williams then hit a ball back to the pitcher but the first baseman failed to cover the base, allowing Gadsden State to have runners at first and second.

As the next batter, Madison Bishop, stood in, a wild pitch allowed both runners to advance. Bishop then drove in a run on a grounder to shortstop. Scarlette Hester followed with an RBI single.

“We’re close but we still need one more hit or one more play,” Sanderson said. “We’ve been steadily improving as the year has gone on.”

Croley allowed six hits, one earned run and three walks in seven innings. She struck out four.

The second game played out differently, but with the same result.

The Cardinals scored three in the first inning. Cobb got on via a one-out infield hit and Shanks advanced her with a single. Payne got two RBI on a double. Bishop walked and watched as Payne stole third. The final run scored on a double steal, with Payne making it home.

That was all of the scoring until the top of the sixth, which saw the Buccaneers tally four runs for the lead. There was no big hit, as Shelton scored playing small ball.

Gadsden State loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh but couldn’t push the tying run across. All of the Cardinals activity – singles by McGinnis and Cobb, followed by a walk to Shanks – came with two outs.

“I considered changing pitchers after the fifth inning,” Sanderson admitted. “We had already overworked Karlee (Brown) of late, but she is our workhorse. I knew that if we did pull her and still lost, there’d be outcry about how I should’ve left her in.”

In seven innings, Brown scattered 11 hits and two earned run s while striking out three. She did not walk a batter. Cobb had two hits and a run scored, while Payne had a double, two RBI and a run scored.

With the two losses, the Cardinals sit in third place of the ACCC North Division.

“One of our goals has been to finish in the top three,” Sanderson said. “We’re much more competitive from a year ago and have met most of our goals.”

Shelton State and Wallace-Hanceville are tied at the top with identical 13-0 records.

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