Loyd lifts Lady Warriors to season-opening softball win against Sand Rock

Cherokee County High School pitcher Alana Loyd delivers a pitch against Sand Rock on Monday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

CENTRE – Alana Loyd just wanted to reach base any way she could, giving the Cherokee County Lady Warriors a chance to win their season-opening softball game against Sand Rock.

She did just that.

In a tie game in the bottom of the seventh inning, Loyd sent a deep fly ball to left field which dropped into play. She sped around to second base, then reached third on a Lanie Williams sacrifice bunt.

Following an intentional walk to Anna Walker, Loyd scored the winning run on a ball in the dirt that squirted past Sand Rock catcher Lindsey Chambers, lifting the Lady Warriors to an 8-7 victory.

“I’m proud of our girls for fighting back,” Lady Warrior coach Brad Weaver said. “They could’ve jumped ship and quit, but they battled back. I told them if they got on we were going to move them around, and luckily we did. Alana came into third with one out, and we just did what we had to do to win.”

Loyd also picked up the win in the circle after finishing with 17 strikeouts. Her teammates gave her five first-inning runs to play with to help her confidence.

“It lifts a lot of weight off,” Loyd said of her early run support. “It’s OK if they get a base hit. Even if you do miss your spot, you’ve still got cushion there. When I did hit my spot, it was pretty good.

“The ones I didn’t hit my spot were the ones that were shots. Sand Rock is a pretty good hitting team. They would crush it on some of my pitches, but when I hit my spot, I felt like I did pretty good.”

“They came out on fire early and they punched us in the mouth, but it challenged our kids a little bit to respond,” Sand Rock coach Josh Bates said. “We just kept trying to claw our way back, and we did. We got the ball game tied up in the sixth, but we just weren’t able to finish.”

Loyd cruised through the first two innings until Sand Rock (0-1) created some offense using small ball.

Chambers led off the top of the third with a walk. Lady Wildcat pitcher Jadyn Foster singled to left with one out. Maggie Hester had a bunt single to score the Lady Wildcats’ first run, then another bunt by Ella Grace Hood scored two more runs, making it a 5-3 game.

Loyd ended the Lady Wildcats’ third-inning rally with back-to-back strikeouts.

The Lady Warriors got a pair of those runs back in the bottom half of the third – both of which were unearned – to take a 7-3 lead.

Sand Rock finally got a solid hit when Hood sent a solo blast to center with two outs in the top of the fifth, bringing the Lady Wildcats within three runs at 7-4.

“That kind of got us going. That was the first ball we’d hit real hard,” Bates said. “That kind of gave us a little confidence going to the plate. We tried to make some in-game adjustments to get to where we’d put it in play.”

Whatever those adjustments were worked, as Sand Rock scored three more runs in the top of sixth.

Against Lady Warrior reliever Grayson Tucker, Tinsley led off by sending a deep fly ball to right that was misplayed. She then scored on a passed ball. Katelyn St. Clair then tripled to right and scored on a bunt single by Rylin St. Clair. Pinch hitter Lily Clanton later delivered a double to right center to score another run to tie the game at 7 and chase Tucker out of the circle for Loyd, who recorded the final two outs of the inning.

The Lady Wildcats found themselves in a position to take the lead in the top of the seventh. Hood doubled to left and reached third on Sherina Foster’s sacrifice bunt. Tinsley then had a bunt single, but Loyd settled in to strike out Katelyn and Rylin St. Clair to end the threat.

That set the stage for Loyd’s game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh.

“I have to give it to Sand Rock. They’re a heck of a team,” Weaver said. “They fought back and tied it up in the sixth. I felt like we let up a little bit, and we can’t let up. We’ve got to keep fighting. We can’t be satisfied until the game is over with.”

Sand Rock’s Maggie Tinsley gets congratulated by Lady Wildcat head coach Josh Bates after she reached third base in the top of the second inning against Cherokee County on Monday afternoon. Photo by Shannon Fagan.
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