Sand Rock starts off strong, but softball season ends to second-ranked West End

Sand Rock’s Aliyah King follows through on a hit against West End in the Class 2A East Softball Regional at Albertville’s Sand Mountain Park on Thursday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

ALBERTVILLE – The Sand Rock Lady Wildcats were on an emotional high from their dramatic one-run win over Woodland on Wednesday to stay alive the Class 2A East Softball Regional in Albertville. It carried over into the first inning of Thursday’s elimination game between the Lady Wildcats and second-ranked West End of Walnut Grove.

Aliyah King led off with a double to left and later scored on an error. Aubie Camp later delivered a squeeze bunt that scored another run to give the Lady Wildcats an early 2-0 lead.

But those two runs would be the only ones Sand Rock would score in a 10-2 season-ending setback.

“We just didn’t put hits together,” Sand Rock coach Josh Bates said. “We put the ball in play but we couldn’t string two or three together with people on base. That turned out to be the difference in the ball game. They (West End) got the timely hits we couldn’t get.”

What Bates was alluding to is the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings for West End. The Lady Patriots sent 11 batters to the plate in the bottom of the fifth to take a 7-2 lead, then added three more in the sixth for the final.

Josie Bunch led the Lady Patriots at the plate by going 2-for-3 with a triple and intentional walk. Kennedi Nix and Braylee King were also 2-for-3. Braylee King also drove in two runs and earned the win in the circle. She allowed just four hits and had four strikeouts in seven innings.

Emma Finch went 2-for-4 and drove in two runs. Bella Falkner had a two-run single to right in the fifth and a walk in the sixth.

Aliyah King topped Sand Rock’s lineup at the plate by going 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles. Molly Lay and Alyvia McMichen had the only other Lady Wildcat hits.

Emma Sipsy suffered the loss for Sand Rock (18-25). She tossed 4 2/3 innings and gave up three earned runs on four hits with a walk and no strikeouts. Bates also threw pitchers Macy Martin, McMichen and Kinzlee Peek against West End.

“We were just trying to keep them off-balance with different pitching,” Bates said. “It didn’t matter what we threw at them. They got on base and started putting it in play. They did what good teams do. They hit the ball real well.”

The game marked the end of the careers for shortstop Kaitlyn St.Clair and third baseman Bailey Kilgore. Bates said both players will be missed.

“Both of our seniors have played since the seventh grade, and Katelyn has been a starter on varsity since the seventh grade,” Bates said. “It’s hard to see them go because they both have been good leaders this year and did a good job of keeping our team motivated. They’ve got a tremendous work ethic and they’re both going to be super successful in life. I’m proud of them and how hard they worked and what they’ve meant to our program. I think they’re leaving a legacy these younger kids will look up to and want to emulate.”

Bates also said he’s proud of how the Lady Wildcats battled all season, particularly down the stretch.

“A lot of people didn’t give us any chance to be at this point,” he said. “I told the girls when the hurt goes away they’ve got a lot of good memories with what they accomplished as a team, and the things they did were tremendous. We’ve just got to keep growing and building on that.”

Sand Rock’s Emma Sipsy fires a pitch to the plate against West End at Sand Mountain Park in Albertville on Thursday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.
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