After a rain-shortened first day in Oxford, the Wetumpka softball team knew it was going to be tough to find a way to make it to the state tournament. With an 11-1 loss to Chelsea in the opening round, the Indians needed four wins on Friday to make it to Lagoon Park but that did not stop them from making a run at it.
Wetumpka (22-17) won three consecutive elimination games including avenging the early loss to Chelsea to set up a meeting with Helena in the second qualifier game. After waiting out another weather delay, the Indians fell behind 5-0 to Helena in the first inning and could not make up for it in a 15-1 loss to the Huskies.
“Once we got behind in that game, we just stopped,” Wetumpka coach Jimmy Reeves said. “But we said we weren’t going to let that rob our joy today. We still had a great day and I’m very proud of what we did as a team.”
After losing the opening round game, the Indians were facing elimination for the first time in a matchup with Benjamin Russell. Pushing across seven runs in the fifth inning was more than enough for Wetumpka to earn an 11-3 victory over the Wildcats.
Offense was the name of the game for Wetumpka, which collected 11 hits in the win over BRHS. Lily Gray went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored, while Mya Holt and Savannah Shoemaker each had two hits.
After trailing 4-1 midway through the second, Benjamin Russell attempted to make a comeback, cutting Wetumpka’s lead to 4-3 after four innings, but that’s when the Indians took off. They scored seven runs in the top of the fifth and held BRHS scoreless for the rest of the way to ensure the victory.
“We had a rough time for a lot of this year but they really came on at the end of the year,” Reeves said. “We had a great day to finish it off. We finally turned into a team.”
With its back still against the wall, Wetumpka turned to its seventh-grade wonder in the circle and Holt did not disappoint. She pitched a complete game, allowing no earned runs and just six hits as the Indians defeated Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa, 3-2.
“She pitched 11 straight shutout innings in the heat of everything,” Reeves said. “She had her changeup working really well today and when she does that, she’s tough to hit. The future is bright for her. She is going to be special.”
Wetumpka scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning with the help of three fielding errors by Hillcrest. Rebeka Cannon led off the inning with a walk and moved to second when Kailyn David reached on an error.
With two on and no outs, Markie Hicks hit a hard grounder to third base and reached after the throw to first sailed into the outfield. Hicks came around to score on a wild pitch, giving Wetumpka a 3-2 lead.
The Indians avenged the loss to Chelsea with a 4-3 victory in another elimination game Friday night. The rain came down hard throughout the game but that did not stop from Holt and Cannon putting together another brilliant performance in the circle to lead Wetumpka to the win.
“It surprised me we did as well as we did today,” Reeves said. “It doesn’t surprise me that we are that close to being in the state tournament but after losing that first game, it was surprising. It took a big effort.”
Wetumpka took an early lead with an RBI groundout from Gray to score Ashlynn Campbell in the first inning. Anna Kate Norton added an RBI single in the third inning to put the Indians ahead 2-0.
Chelsea tied the game with a 2-run single in the fifth inning, forcing Reeves to pull Holt in favor of Cannon. Wetumpka quickly responded as Campbell and Norton crossed the plate on a pair of passed balls to put the Indians up 4-2.
“I don’t know how much of it was about revenge,” Reeves said. “I just think we were on a roll there and as a coach, you just have to get out of the way and let them play. But I’m sure it felt good to beat someone who beat us badly early in the day.”
Chelsea added one more run but Wetumpka held off the late rally as Cannon grabbed a two-inning save.
“It was pouring down rain and it’s tough to pitch in that,” Reeves said. “She showed a tremendous amount of character. She’s a tough kid.”
Wetumpka finished its season with a 22-17 record after winning three games at the regional tournament. The Indians matched their win total from last season but played 10 fewer games.