Sand Rock softball team continues hot start, rallies past Cedar Bluff 7-1

Sand Rock’s EllaGrace Hood races to third base following a hit against Cedar Bluff on Tuesday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

CEDAR BLUFF – The Sand Rock softball team has gotten off to a good start to the 2023 season.

Over the weekend, they finished runner-up in a tournament at Glencoe. Their only two losses came against Class 6A Wetumpka, including a 1-0 decision in the championship game.

They also played Cedar Bluff in that same tournament, winning 8-4 in two rounds of international tiebreaker.

The two teams had a rematch at Cedar Bluff on Tuesday. The Lady Tigers took an early lead, but Sand Rock rallied for a 7-1 win to improve to 6-2 on the season.

“We’ve started out pretty hot,” Sand Rock coach Josh Bates said. “Our kids have worked real hard from January on, trying to get ready for this season. I see a little different look in their eyes and them being hungry.

“I told them Saturday night when we got beat 1-0 in the championship game ‘We’re going to have a lot of fun this year.’ They’re a fun group to coach and they’re a great group of kids. I’m excited and they’re excited about playing. I love it.”

Like many of their starts on the young season, Cedar Bluff (0-5) managed to get off to a good start. The Lady Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on Reece Patterson single to center that scored Mattie Payne, who led off the inning with a single to right.

Cedar Bluff pitcher Natalie Baty made that run hold up until the top of the third. Emma Sipsey singled to left with one out and Katelyn StClair followed with a double to left, bringing EllaGrace Hood to the plate. Hood drove in both runners after smacking a triple to left to give Sand Rock a 2-1 advantage.

It remained a one-run game until the top of the seventh. Sand Rock batted around in that inning, with the big hits coming on a two-run double to left by StClair, followed by a run-scoring double by Jadyn Foster. The Lady Wildcats squeezed home another run on a bunt hit by Sherina Foster. The final run was unearned.

“We’re hopping out early and doing really well, but we’re not quite closing it out in the end,” Cedar Bluff coach Garrett Crane said. “We’re proud of the start, but we need that momentum to add and to build on.

“We lost three in the last inning (over the weekend). I don’t know if it’s a mental block or the situations. Maybe it’s some of the culture stuff. Maybe we haven’t driven that into them enough.”

StClair led the Lady Wildcats at the plate, going 3-for-4 with two doubles. She also drove in a pair of runs.

“Katelyn is just coming out of basketball, so she hasn’t gotten as many reps as some of the others, but we’re seeing her swing a hot bat,” Bates said. “She hit well all weekend. She’s swinging free and I think she’s having a blast.”

Sipsy went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk. Jadyn Foster delivered a double and a RBI. Hood doubled and drove in two runs. Sherina Foster walked and squeezed home a run. Aliyah King doubled, singled and drove in a run. Bailey Kilgore singled.

“We’re taking a good approach at the plate,” Bates said. “When we go up there, we’ve got the mindset we’re going to put it in play. They’re doing a great job. They’ve bought into trying to find their pitch, see their pitch and hit the ball hard.”

Jadyn Foster picked up the win for the Lady Wildcats. She worked four innings, giving up an unearned run on three hits with no walks and four strikeouts. Hood picked up the save after she tossed the final three innings. She gave up a pair of walks to Blakelea Hall and an infield single to Payne with three strikeouts.

“Jadyn and Ella are really doing a good job of hitting spots and mixing things up,” Bates said. “They’re doing a great job leading the team right now and doing what they need to do on the field. I’m really proud of both of them.”

Payne and Patterson both had a pair of hits for Cedar Bluff. Baty suffered the loss after going the distance. She finished with seven strikeouts.

“We really weren’t piecing things together (offensively),” Crane said. “We had a couple of solo hits, maybe had a walk and didn’t move her over, just nothing timely, but give them credit. Both of their pitchers are very good. They’re a very good ball club. We’re going to get better every time we play them.”

Cedar Bluff’s Mattie Payne heads for third base following a hit by Reece Patterson in the first inning against Sand Rock on Tuesday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.
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