By Joe Medley, East Alabama Sports Today
OXFORD — In a bottom-line sense, Piedmont’s softball team made its third consecutive state-tournament appearance and got no farther this time. Progress shows up more in the details.
Class 3A’s fourth-ranked team in the final Alabama Sports Writers Association poll of the season, the Bulldogs won 39 games. They went 2-3 in their final five, but those three losses came against No. 1 Plainview, No. 2 Beulah and No. 3 Opp.
The scores … 4-0, 2-1 and 4-2.
“It’s not far away,” veteran coach Rachel Smith said after a 4-2 loss to Beulah ended the Bulldogs’ season Wednesday at Choccolocco Park. “We’re really, really close, and had something gone our way here or there in that game, I think we’d still be playing tomorrow.”
A 4-0 loss to Plainview in the East Regional winners’ bracket final made Piedmont the regional’s No. 2 state qualifier in 3A. That set the Bulldogs up to open state play against the South Regional’s No. 1, third-ranked Opp.
Piedmont lost 2-1, beat Danville 8-0 then lost to second-ranked Beulah 4-2. Plainview put Beulah in the elimination bracket earlier Wednesday and awaits the elimination bracket survivor in the finals.
The Bulldogs knocked on the door at the state level a month after kicking in the Calhoun County door, winning the county tournament for the first time in program history.
It’s a nice resume piece for seniors Emma Grace Todd, Sarah Goss, Armoni Perry and Jenna Calvert, who were sophomores when Piedmont made the first state-tournament appearance in the program’s fast-pitch era.
“Definitely big shoes to fill,” Smith said, “but we talked about how the young girls that were here, they’re here to learn, maybe get an opportunity to play here or there, but they’re also here to see the level of competition that they’re going to need to be at to be on the field this time next year.”
Piedmont’s last two runs of the season came in its final at bat. Junior Jaycee Glover hit her second triple against Beulah. Sophomore Carson Young, who pitched a no-hitter in the area tournament, followed with an inside-the-park home run.
“We put the barrel on the ball,” Smith said. “We just didn’t get timely hits when we needed them.”