Lady Warriors prove to be a tough out in 4A state softball tournament

Cherokee County High School senior shortstop Audrey Haygood rounds third base on her way home in the bottom of the fourth inning following a hit that reached the outfield fence. Two other runs scored on the play. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

OXFORD – Last year, the Cherokee County Lady Warrior softball team did something they hadn’t done since 2018, and that was making the Class 4A state tournament in Oxford.

They waited a whole year to take things even further, and while it may not have been as far as they wanted to go on Monday, they still made it a step further nonetheless.

The Lady Warriors won their first game against Prattville Christian 5-4, setting up a showdown with top-ranked Orange Beach in the winners bracket. Cherokee County more than gave the three-time defending state champions a run for their money, battling them to a 6-6 tie through seven innings. It took a Falyn Beebe home run to deep center field to end the game in the eighth 7-6.

The way that game ended seemed to take a lot of energy out of the Lady Warriors in their next game against sixth-ranked Brooks – the team that ended the Lady Warriors’ season a year ago.

Senior pitcher and Ole Miss commitment Abby Herndon held the Lady Warrior hitters to just four hits and struck out six in a season-ending 6-0 setback.

Cherokee County finished the season at 36-11, a six-win improvement from last season.

“I can’t say how proud I am of these girls,” an emotional Lady Warrior head coach Brad Weaver said. “These seniors have been with us since seventh grade and they bought into this program. I can’t thank them enough for buying in and doing the little things that got us where we are now.

“It’s hard (losing the last game). There isn’t but one team who’s going to leave here with happy tears. We gave it all we had. Sometimes you just run out of gas unfortunately. We filled the tank up against Orange Beach and I thought we fought with them tooth and nail. They were worried at one time. After an extra-inning game like that against a really good team, sometimes it just sucks it out of you.”

But early on Monday afternoon, it was Cherokee County that sucked the life out of Prattville Christian.

Senior shortstop Audrey Haygood broke open a tie game with a line shot to center in the fourth inning to score a pair of runs. The ball darted all the way to the fence as Haygood hustled around the bases to score, and the Lady Warriors held on for a 5-4 win.

The momentum Cherokee County had in its opener carried over against Orange Beach.

After spotting the Makos a 2-0 lead on a two-run homer to center field by Ava Hodo, the Lady Warriors fought their way back with a run in the top of the second and three more in the fourth to take a 4-2 advantage.

A grand slam to left field by Teagan Revette gave the Makos a 6-4 edge, but the Lady Warriors battled back in the top of the fifth with a pair of unearned runs to tie the game at 6.

It remained tied at 6 until the bottom of the eighth inning when Beebe ended the game with her leadoff home run against Emma Hill, who relieved Abby Lea in the fifth.

Hill, who earned the win against Prattville Christian with 10 strikeouts, was handed the ball again against Brooks. She scattered six earned runs on 12 hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

The Lady Lions manufactured a run in the top of the first, two more in the fourth and three in the sixth for the final.

Grayson Tucker and Abby Lea led the Lady Warriors at the plate with a pair of hits apiece.

“One thing we learned from last year is when you get to this point, you’re going to see good pitching. You have to bring the bats with you,” Weaver said. “We hit the ball several times (against Brooks). It just wasn’t in the gaps. We’d hit it to them or rolled over it. Brooks’ pitcher (Herndon) is really good. That’s why she’s out there. She hit her spots and did what she’s supposed to do.”

The game marked the end of the high school careers for eight Lady Warrior seniors – Haygood, catcher Lanie Williams, first baseman/pitcher Grayson Tucker, second baseman Raechel Russell, third baseman Anna Walker, outfielders Aubrie Abernathy and Samantha Stubbs and outfielder/pitcher Abby Lea.

“We built up with this group,” Weaver said. “Our goal each year is to go deeper, go further, and ever since these seniors were in seventh grade we went deeper and further. This is the first time in a long time we’ve won a game at state. We made it to game three. Our goal is to win it all, but when you run out of gas, it’s tough.”

Cherokee County High School pitcher Emma Hill flings a pitch to the plate against Prattville Christian on Monday at the Class 4A state softball tournament in Oxford. Photo by Shannon Fagan.
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