TROY REGIONALS: ECHS wins regional, qualifies for state tourneyPublished 2:44pm Saturday, May 10, 2014
Ashley Roberts admittedly was down after three ground-ball outs. With two outs, a runner on third in the top of the eighth and the Class 4A South Central regional title hanging in the balance, her fourth plate appearance needed a different outcome.
After a deep breath, the senior stepped in and delivered Elmore County (32-4) the game-winning blooper over the first baseman’s head, scoring Olivia Royal for the 4-3 lead over West Blocton.
“I was just really upset about it,” Roberts said she thought to herself. “I took a deep breath, it helps me kind of stop, and I just prayed. And as soon as I said that prayer, I hit it over.
“It’s a big deal because I know they were all counting on me, and I know because it was two outs that that was it. If I didn’t do it, nobody else was going to get a chance. I just feel good that I came through for them because they were counting on me and I didn’t want to let them down.”
In the bottom of the eighth, senior pitcher Chelsea Fomby got West Blocton’s Anna Bedford to pop out before Brittany Gardner laced a shot up the middle for a hit. The next batter, Whitney Edgecomb grounded into a double play to Elissa Brown to send the Lady Panthers to its first AHSAA state tournament appearance since 2007.
“Hitting the ball to Elissa, as soon as they hit it to her, I was thinking double play,” ECHS head coach Wilbur Terrell said. “And Haley (Britt) over there at first base, stretching about as far as she could stretch just to leave no doubt. It was a team effort, so many of the girls had big plays today.”
Royal gave Elmore County the lead in the first inning, forcing two throwing errors on a steal attempt, allowing her to come home for the 1-0 advantage. West Blocton answered in the bottom half behind Bedford’s two-run double and Gardner’s RBI sacrifice, taking a 3-1 lead.
The three runs nearly eclipsed the four-run mark Fomby allowed in the regional first two games combined.
“Of course you’re going to have jitters,” Fomby said. “I just thought this is regionals, if we win this game we’re done, we’re going to state. The dynamic duo, me and Lauren (Waid), we told each other let’s go out there and do our game, we have this awesome defense behind us. She’s great at calling pitches and I just do what she says. I put forth effort to hit my spots and that’s just what wins games, hitting your spots and just pitching really well.”
The senior only gave up four hits and struck out two after the first, on her way to her 30th win on the season.
“They came out hitting the ball,” Terrell said. “You got to give them credit for that. Chelsea, I know she settled down after that first inning and kind of took control of the game. She kind of struggled, she had two walks which is very uncharacteristic of her. We have solid defense, and they kept bailing us out.”
In the third, Royal’s fly ball to right field scored Kenya Brown and moved Elissa Brown to third. A failed pickoff attempt from Lady Tiger catcher Crislyn Graham allowed Elissa Brown to score and tied the game up at 3-3, where the score stayed until the eighth.
West Blocton advanced base runners to third in each of the last two innings, but Fomby forced ground ball outs to end both threats.
“I really didn’t expect anything bad to happen,” Terrell said. “It was kind of a little crazy but I felt this was our time. I felt like that all year that this was our time. We just had to make it happen.”
With the team heading to the state tournament, Roberts said it’s exciting to see the response of the Eclectic community.
“It’s exciting to know that the people at school, they’re behind us,” Roberts said. “The whole community is coming together because of us and that’s what’s exciting.”
After winning all three regional contests, Fomby said the Lady Panthers aren’t done.
“I’m proud of all the girls, I wouldn’t trade them for anything,” Fomby said. “We’re just really excited and hope to win state. That’s what we’re shooting for and I have a good feeling that it’s going to turn out well.”
ECHS opens play in the AHSAA state tournament at Lagoon Park in Montgomery Friday at noon with an opponent to be determined.