Lady Eagles go 1-2 at softball regionals

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By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

The Hokes Bluff softball team went 1-2 at the Class 3A East Regionals on Thursday, May 8 at the Albertville Sports Park.
The Lady Eagles (22-13-1) opened the tournament with a 15-5 victory over Vinemont in six innings. An 8-5 loss to Piedmont dropped them into the playback bracket, where they fell to Weaver by a score of 3-0.
Hokes Bluff head coach Rush Rutledge believed that the eight-day layoff between the area and regional tournaments hindered rather than helped his team.
“To be honest, that hurt us more than anything else,” he said. “I can see how it helps to give the kids some rest and heal people up, but to take that long off after how well we were playing, it absolutely killed us.”
Hokes Bluff built leads of 7-1 and 9-4 against Vinemont before putting the game away with six runs in the sixth inning. For the Lady Eagles, Abby Payne (pictured above) went 3-for-3 with a triple, two RBI and four runs scored; Peyton Ward went 2-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored; Lacey Grace Hall went 2-for-5 with a home run, three RBI and a run scored; and Ryan Lumpkin had an RBI double.
Hall went the distance for the win, allowing four hits, three earned runs and three walks while striking out five.
Trailing 8-3 against Piedmont in the bottom of the seventh inning, Hokes Bluff drew within three when a one-out base hit from Makenna Bennich plated Payne and Hall, but with Bennich on third base and Lumpkin on second with two outs, Piedmont pitcher Savannah Smith struck out the next batter and then induced a flyout to end the Lady Eagles’ season.
In a complete game effort, Smith scattered eight hits, five runs and two walks while fanning four.
Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the first, Lumpkin’s RBI groundout cut the deficit to one run. The Lady Bulldogs put across a pair of runs in the third, but Payne homered in the bottom of the inning to keep Hokes Bluff within 4-2.
Both teams scored a run in the fifth inning – Piedmont on an RBI single by Jaycee Glover and Hokes Bluff with Payne’s triple that plated Addie Robertson.
But respective RBI singles from Glover, Amiyah Thomas and Eliza Mathis in the top of the seventh extended the Lady Bulldogs’ lead to 8-3, and the Lady Eagles’ rally attempt in the bottom of the inning fell three runs short.
Payne went 2-for-3 with a home run, a triple, two RBI and two runs scored; Bennich went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI; and Hall went 3-for-4 with a triple, and a run scored.
Getting the start against Weaver, Hall limited the Lady Bearcats to six hits, one earned run and two walks with four strikeouts, but Weaver starter Kynlee Fulmer was stingier, holding Hokes Bluff to three hits, no runs and two walks while fanning six.
Weaver scored twice on the third inning and once more on the sixth. Hokes Bluff put seven runners on base during the game, but none advanced past second. The Lady Eagles had runners on first and second base with no outs in the bottom of the fifth, but the next batter flied out, and Fulmer notched two straight strikeouts to end the threat. Lumpkin, Howell and Sophia Jackson each had a hit for Hokes Bluff.
Rutledge appreciated the efforts of seniors Payne, Ward and Kadyn Howell.
“Those three girls have put in a lot of work to help get this program to where it is right now. Kayden’s probably one of my most improved players from last year to this season. She hit and fielded well and battled back from when she got hurt near the end of the year. Peyton pitched well for us and put the ball in play and did a good job for us at first base. Abby just did what Abby does – hitting home runs and batting almost .500 and playing well at shortstop. All three did exactly what they were supposed to do this season. You’ve also got to give some credit to the seniors form three years ago. They started the process of making this a respectable program.”

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