Warriors struggle at the plate, fall to Oneonta in Class 4A, Area 12 tournament

Cherokee County High School’s Raechel Russell strolls in safely to third base in the bottom of the first inning following a hit by Macy Lea. Russell later scored on Lanie Williams’ sacrifice fly for the only Lady Warrior run of the game against Oneonta on Saturday. Photo by Billy Garrett

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

CENTRE – The Cherokee County Lady Warrior offense has picked the wrong time to struggle at the plate.

They managed just five hits in their Class 4A, Area 12 softball tournament opener, a 1-0 victory against Ashville on Saturday. The win sent the Lady Warriors to the winners bracket against Oneonta. The Lady Redskins held off Etowah 3-2 in their tournament opener.

Things started off well for Cherokee County. They scored a run in the bottom of the first inning, but failed to score again in a 3-1 setback.

The Lady Warriors (28-9) have now lost three of their last four games. They’ll have to win three games in the tournament on Monday and twice against Oneonta to clinch another area title. They must defeat Ashville again in the 3 p.m. game in order to keep their season alive.

“The hardest thing is keeping these girls loose for a game like that, win or go home,” Lady Warrior head coach Brad Weaver said. “We’ve just got to relax, play our ball and hit. If we do that we’ll be just fine.

“Everybody has slumps, but we can’t have all nine in a slump at the same time. You’ve got to dig deep sometimes and do whatever it takes to get on base, whether that’s bunting, hitting, taking a hit, whatever. We’ve got to have base runners often, not just here and there. It’s frustrating for the girls and for us (coaches), but you’ve just got to go to work and hit your way out of it.”

In the win over Ashville, the Lady Warriors scored their only run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Anna Walker doubled and scored on a hit by Macy Lea.

Pitcher Emma Hill made that run hold up. She gave up just three hits and struck out 16 batters.

Audrey Haygood, Raechel Russell and Abby Lea had the only other Lady Warrior hits. Haygood’s hit was a double.

The Lady Warriors appeared to have shaken off their offensive struggles against Ashville early in the winners bracket game against Oneonta. With one out, Russell and Abby Lea posted back-to-back hits to give the Lady Warriors runners at second and third. Lanie Williams drove Russell in on a sacrifice fly to right to give Cherokee County a 1-0 advantage.

The Lady Redskins took the lead with a pair of runs in the top of the third on RBI-singles by Tennley Johnson and Desalee Fredrick. Both players went 2-for-4 in the game. Millie Simmons drove in an insurance run in the top of the sixth for the final.

Aleigha Rhetta and Ashtyn Sligh both doubled for Oneonta. Sligh earned the complete-game win in the circle after allowing an earned run on eight hits with a walk and four strikeouts.

“That’s a really good team,” Weaver said of Oneonta. “This was the third time we’ve faced them this year. They’re a very good hitting team and a very good defensive team, and they’ve got a really good pitcher. Coming into this game we had to hit with them. If not, we were going to end up like this. They hit and fielded better than we did today.”

Grayson Tucker was the tough-luck loser for the Lady Warriors. She tossed 5 2/3 innings and gave up two earned runs on six hits with a walk and five strikeouts.

Hill came in to relieve Tucker in the top of the sixth when the Lady Redskins loaded the bases with two outs. Hill got Johnson to pop out to left to end the inning.

“Thank goodness for our pitching today. It could’ve been a different outcome if it wasn’t for our pitching,” Weaver said. “Emma and Grayson both pitched very well. We do have that to lean on.”

Hill and Russell led the Lady Warriors at the plate with a pair of hits. Tucker, Williams, Abby Lea and Macy Lea had the other hits for Cherokee County. Abby Lea also walked.

Despite their offensive struggles on Saturday, the Lady Warriors still have a shot at winning the area championship.

“I told them you win one you go to regionals. You win three and you’re area champs,” Weaver said. “We’ve got to take it one game at a time. We’ve got to win the first one Monday and then we can go from there.”

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