Lady Warriors earn second Cherokee County Softball Tournament title in three seasons

The 2023 Cherokee County Softball Tournament champions, the Cherokee County Lady Warriors. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

CENTRE – Following a 12-0 winners bracket victory over Cedar Bluff on Saturday in the Cherokee County Softball Tournament on Saturday, Cherokee County High School coach Brad Weaver challenged the Lady Warriors to come out strong again in the championship game against Sand Rock.

They did just that.

The Lady Warriors scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning, then added single runs in the second, third and fourth innings, and capped things off with a three-run sixth in a 9-2 victory to secure their second county softball title in three seasons.

“We were coming off a two-game rest, and a lot of times after that you come out dead,” Weaver said. “We as coaches challenged them. What are you going to do? Are you going to make us play two games or are we going to come out and play one and do our job. They showed up.

“One of our biggest things is don’t be satisfied. We try to score every inning. If you score every inning, then you’ve got a chance. Even if you jump out on somebody, don’t let off. Just play our ball and do what we do. So far this year we’ve done fairly well at that.

Cherokee County (8-1) built a 4-0 lead before Sand Rock (14-6) earned a little momentum in the top of the third inning and got back in the game.

Katelyn StClair led off with a double to right center field, and Jadyn Foster’s inside-the-park home run to right made it a 4-2 game.

The Lady Wildcats had an opportunity for even more runs in the inning following back-to-back walks by EllaGrace Hood and Sherina Foster with no outs to chase Cherokee County starting pitcher Grayson Tucker.

Emma Hill came in to relieve Tucker and got Aliyah King to ground into a double play. Hill then struck out Briley Knight to end the inning.

Tucker led off the bottom of the third with a towering home run right to make it a 5-2 game which seemed to re-energize the Lady Warriors the rest of the game.

“We needed that then,” Weaver said of Tucker’s homer. “We were starting to drag a little bit. It just takes that one person, and Grayson was that today. She stepped up and hit that home run and it sparked a fire under us.

“We’ve worked so much on just keeping our head when bad things happen. The game of softball is a game of failure. Bad things are going to happen. You’re going to miss a ground ball. You’re going to miss a popup. They’re going to score. How do you respond? That’s what we’ve challenged our girls with ever since I’ve been here, and every year we’ve gotten better and better at that. It’s starting to show.”

After Cherokee County added a run in the bottom of the fourth to make the score 6-2, Sand Rock had a golden opportunity to get back in the game again by loading the bases with no outs on a StClair walk, a Jadyn Foster double, and a Hood walk. However, Hill slammed the door by striking out the next three Lady Wildcats to end the threat.

“We had some opportunities to get some runs and we didn’t. We didn’t get the timely hits and they did,” Sand Rock coach Josh Bates said. “That’s just the name of the game. When we’ve got runners in scoring position, we’ve got to execute, put the ball in play and try to score those runs. When you don’t, and you’re playing a good team like Centre, you can’t make mistakes. You’ve got to have the hits to get the runs in and keep yourself in the ball game.”

Anna Walker led the Lady Warriors at the plate by going 3-for-4 with a double, a run and three RBIs. Tucker went 2-for-3 with a homer, a run and three RBIs. Lanie Williams also had a pair of hits, including a double, with a run and two RBIs. Abby Lea collected two hits, a walk and three runs. Hill had two hits and scored a run.

Macy Lea had a hit and a RBI. Audrey Haygood added a hit and scored a run. Raechel Russell finished with a hit.

Tucker tossed two innings and surrendered two earned runs on four hits with three walks and three strikeouts. Hill worked the final five innings, giving up just one hit with three walks and six strikeouts.

For Sand Rock, Jadyn Foster went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, a run and two RBIs. StClair doubled, walked and scored a run. Lacey Barnette contributed a hit. Hood walked four times.

Jadyn Foster suffered the loss. She worked six innings in the circle, giving up six earned runs on 14 hits with a walk and seven strikeouts.

The championship game was the fourth county contest of the day for Sand Rock. The Lady Wildcats worked their way out of the losers bracket by defeating Gaylesville 10-0, Spring Garden 5-1, and Cedar Bluff 8-6.

Sand Rock lost its first tournament game to Cherokee County on Friday 4-3.

“I told them (Friday) night we had the opportunity to get to this point and play in the championship game,” Bates said. “We knew it would be a tough day, a lot of games, a lot of ball to play, but I thought our girls were very resilient and did a good job battling. We had opportunities early in this (championship) game to keep it close, but I’m very proud of the fight they had today.”

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