By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent
Gaston High School swept West End, 10-6 and 11-7, in the Class 2A, Area 12 Tournament softball championship on Friday (May 1) at GHS.
The Lady Bulldogs (21-16) had to battle back through the loser’s bracket to take the title. “I am proud of my team,” said Gaston head coach Jay Williams. “They were upset about loosing and being in the loser’s bracket, but I kept telling them that I believed in them.
“I‘m proud of [pitcher] Haley Morgan,” he added.
Both teams advanced to the Class 2A North-Central regional Tournament this weekend in Tuscaloosa. Gaston opens against Ranburne, while West End faces Randolph County.
The hosts found themselves in a precarious situation in an elimination game against Asbury in the tournament semifinals, but eighth grader Haley Morgan took the mound and pitched the Lady Dawgs to a 10-0 win and a berth in the championship against West End.
The Lady Patriots defeated Asbury, 7-6, and Gaston, 8-3, to remain in the winner’s bracket. The Lady Bulldogs opened the tournament with a 10-0 win over Cleveland.
Called upon to take the mound against the Lady Patriots, Morgan responded with seven strong innings en route to a 10-6 win that forced another title contest. Morgan gave up six runs on seven hits.
At the plate for Gaston, Samantha Mathis had a hit and two RBI, while Alex Moon had two hits and two RBI.
The Lady Bulldogs scored all 10 of their runs in the second, third and fourth innings with six hits and three walks. The big inning was the second, when Gaston sent nine batters to the plate and scored five runs.
West End was led by Kaitlyn Waldrop and Payten Butts, who each went 2-for-4. Butts also had an RBI.
The second game started out as a slugfest with the score tied 7-7 going into the bottom of the sixth inning.
Morgan had started for Gaston but gave way to winning pitcher Haley Gladden in the bottom of the fifth. Jayleigh Kirby took the loss for West End, giving up 11 runs and two walks on eight hits.
The Lady Bulldogs took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first on hits by Abbie Elrod, Haley Gladden and Macie Mooney.
West End answered with two runs in the top of the third on hits by Kaitlyn Waldrop and Alex Hallmark.
Gaston plated three runs in the bottom of the third to take a 5-2 lead. The big hit in the inning was a two-run double by Cadie Bagley.
But the Lady Patriots added five runs in the top of the fourth inning on six hits to grab a 7-5 lead.
Gaston clawed back in the bottom half of the inning, however, scoring a pair of runs to tie the game at 7-7. Mooney had a big triple and Kaitlyn Glass had a double during the inning.
The bottom of the sixth saw the game slip away from West End when Gaston scored four runs on only one hit to take a four-run lead. The big hit in the inning came from Darby Samples, a single that drove in two runs.
“We just didn’t play well [and] we didn’t deserve to win,” said West End head coach Rick Watkins. “We just made too many mistakes, and you can’t do that against a good team like Gaston.”