By Stan Veitch/Sports Correspondent
Nicki Rodgers was due. And she knew it.
“I’m usually nervous if we’re not ahead,” the Etowah High second baseman said. “But I was pretty calm in there this time.”
Getting her pitch helped, too.
“It was a perfect pitch, low but in the zone,” she said. “I hit the ball in the gap a lot when I hit a low ball.”
The gap is exactly where this one went, directly over the Boaz shortstop’s head and leading the Blue Devils (30-7) to a 2-1 victory in the Class 5A, Area 13 Tournament championship game on Wednesday (Apr. 29) in Attalla.
Both teams will play in next week’s North Regional at the Huntsville SportsPlex.
Etowah coach Stephen Coggins also knew that Rodgers was due.
“She usually gets at least one hit a game,” he said. “She was 0-for-2 (with a sacrifice bunt) coming in, so I knew she was definitely due.”
Brooke Perry scored the winning run, reaching on a one-out single. Aimee Fancher reached on a throwing error by the Pirate third baseman and Madison Bishop popped out, setting the stage for Rodgers.
“(Boaz) brought the outfield in,” Coggins said. “She hit the ball on the nose at the perfect time (in the game).”
The game was scoreless until the fifth inning, when the Pirates scored on Sarah Clontz’s two-out single to plate Jessica Clontz, who had earlier singled.
The Blue Devils reciprocated, scoring in the bottom of the fifth. Perry doubled and went to third on a Fancher sacrifice bunt before scoring on a passed ball.
Boaz almost went back ahead in the top of the seventh, getting runners to second and third with two outs. But winning pitcher Madison Grant induced a grounder to end the threat.
In seven innings, Grant struck out five while allowing one earned run, three hits and one walk.
At the plate for the Blue Devils, Tournament MVP Amber Jones went 2-for-2 with a double and two runs scored; Emma Jones went 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored; and Bishop had a double and two RBI.
In the tournament semifinals earlier in the day, Etowah defeated Boaz, 5-2.
Grant earned the win in seven innings, allowing two earned runs, seven hits and one walk with six strikeouts.
Amber Jones went 2-for-2 with a double and two runs scored; Emma Jones went 2-for- 3 with a double and a run scored; Bishop went 1-for-2 with a double and two RBI; and Grant and Alyssa Howard each had a hit, an RBI and a run scored.
On Monday (Apr. 27), Etowah pounded out 14 hits en route to a 10-3 victory over Douglas in the opening round.
Howard had a big day at the plate with two home runs, five RBI and two runs scored.
Rodgers went 4-for-4 with two runs scored, while Brooke Perry went 2-for-4 with a home run, two RBI and a run scored.
Emma Jones went 2-for-3 with a run scored, while Amber Jones and Fancher each had a double, an RBI and a run scored.
In seven innings, Grant allowed three hits, one earned run and one walk while striking out five.
Joining Amber Jones on the all-tournament team were teammates Grant, Howard, Perry, Rodgers, Fancher and Bishop. Also selected were Alex Alabardo, Sarah Clontz, Shayla Carroll and Autumn Patterson from Boaz, Erika Speight and Breanna Mitchell from Douglas and Erin Lee and Sarah Arnold from Guntersville.