Lady Wildcats win AISA state title; finish tourney unbeatenPublished 4:23pm Monday, May 5, 2014
Their shoulders felt lighter, yet heavier, walking off the field Saturday at Lagoon Park in Montgomery.
For the first time in a decade, the Edgewood Lady Wildcats (36-9) carried home the AISA Class A state championship hardware with a 6-3 win over Marengo Academy.
A part of five of the teams which fell short, senior and 2014 all-state tournament selection Hannahlee Harris said she thought about the long road to that heavy trophy in the celebration.
“We’ve come to this state tournament since seventh-grade, losing our first game almost every year; losing out the first day,” Harris said. “To actually go through the whole thing winning it all — not even losing one game — it’s just amazing.”
Day 1 presented no problem for the Lady Wildcats, shutting out Meadowview Christian and Ashford Academy, 10-0 and 2-0, respectively. The second day posed the stiffest test in region tournament final foe Lakeside.
Edgewood and Lakeside traded the lead six times in their state semifinal matchup.
Three outs with a 4-3 lead in the seventh was all Edgewood needed to advance to the state title game.
But Lakeside’s Frankie Ammons pelted doubt in their minds with a two-run home run off senior pitcher Kelsey Hartley which put the Lady Chiefs up, 5-4.
Uncertainly quickly fleeted for the Wildcats as Harris opened the rally, beating out a throw to first base.
Kara Wilson then got a base hit before Caity Jo Lee’s game-winning two-run single to lift EA to the title game.
“A weakness that we’ve had throughout the season this year, with the nine losses that we had, was we were leading in every game but one,” EA head coach Fawn Sims said. “We worked on that repeatedly to keep that from being a weakness, and I told them their job is to finish their game. And that’s what they did. They were resilient; they didn’t back off.”
In the championship contest, EA took control early and never looked back.
Harris scored off Wilson’s single and Hartley brought in Wilson on a sacrifice fly to put the Lady Wildcats up 2-0 in the bottom of the first.
EA added three runs in the next two innings with RBIs from Harris and Katrina Harden to stretch the lead to 5-0 by the third.
Marengo cut the EA’s advantage to 5-3 in the fifth, after a hit batsman and an RBI triple from Brooke Smyly, who scored on the same sequence on an EA fielding error.
But Harden gave her team one of the runs back in the bottom half of the fifth, hitting a solo home run to close out the game and make way for the celebration.
Hartley retired the last six batters she faced en route to the title and Class A tournament MVP honor.
“All I was trying for is a ground ball, pop up, anything,” she said. “A strikeout happened; the ground ball happened; the next ground ball happened. It just all fell together like I wanted it to, and it was more than amazing.”
Sims said Hartley’s determination wasn’t going to be denied.
“There’s not many better than her in the state to be perfectly honest,” the coach said. “She’s a great kid. Mississippi College is going to be lucky to have her. She came here with a purpose, that she wanted to win a championship, she wanted to be a winner and she wanted to play college ball. And now, she’s done all three”
Heading to Faulkner University next year and leading her team on Saturday going 6-for-8 at the plate and accounting for five runs in the two games, Harris said she was going to give it her all for her team.
“This was it for me, if I didn’t give it all I got then I was going to go out of Edgewood thinking of that,” Harris said. “So I was going to do what I could to win the game and everything in my power to help my team.”
Sims and Hartley said the team’s championship journey began one year ago, stepping off the field with a third-place finish. The work that followed led straight to that heavy hardware, lightening their shoulders along the way.
“It’s amazing, it’s well-deserved for my girls,” Sims said. “They worked very hard for me this year, and for each other. They wanted it from day one, it started a year ago. I’m very proud of them.”
“There’s so many emotions going through my mind,” Hartley said. “Everything that we’ve done from sprints, to ladders, to burpees, everything just paid off in the end. And I couldn’t have asked for a better team to spend this state championship with. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”