Lady Bulldogs take second place at regionals, qualify for state tournament

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By Chris McCarthy/Editor

Although his team took the scenic route to qualify for the AHSAA state softball tournament, Gaston High head softball coach Jay Williams isn’t complaining. 

After the Lady Bulldogs (24-16-2) opened the Class 2A North Central Regional Tournament with a 10-3 win over Ranburne, Gaston suffered a 15-0 loss to eventual champion Sumiton Christian to drop to the loser bracket.

The Lady ‘Dawgs regrouped in a big way, beating Etowah County neighbor West End, 13-1, followed by an 11-1 win over Randolph County. Gaston then posted a 16-10 victory over Fayetteville, securing the regional runnerup spot and gaining a berth in the double-elimination Class 2A state tournament this weekend at Montgomery’s Lagoon Park.

“I told your girls after we lost to Sumiton to keep their heads up and that we had the team to come out of the losers bracket and win the whole thing,” said Williams. “We jumped out [on Fayetteville] pretty early on and got a good cushion, and then it was 9-1 and 12-4 before we came out on top,” said Williams. “We just got through it inning by inning. [8th grader pitcher] Haley Morgan was throwing strikes and we were making plays behind her. 

“Both of our pitchers (including junior Haley Gladden) pitched their hearts out,” said Williams. “Our three seniors (Abby Elrod, Cadie Bagley and Darby Samples) have really stepped up, and this is such a great thing for them in getting to go to the state tournament.”

According to Williams, it is the program’s first-ever state tournament berth in the fast pitch format.

“We do not have the dominant, 60-mile-an-hour pitcher like some teams have,” he said. “But we’re throwing and hitting the ball really well, going back to the area tournament. We also have some young kids who can play random positions. These girls have really impressed me in how they came together in the past month. 

The Lady Bulldogs face Goshen on Friday (May 15) at 9 a.m. in the first round.

“What I’ve told my girls all along is that you’ve got to hit, catch it and pitch it,” said Williams. “Right now I’d put my infield up against anybody. But it’s a seven-inning ball game, and a lot can happen in 21 outs. If we play the game like you’re supposed to play it, we’ll be okay.”

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