Spring Garden falls short in Class 1A state softball tournament

Spring Garden senior second baseman Maggie Reedy connects on a hit against Maplesville on Tuesday at the Class 1A state softball tournament at Oxford’s Choccolocco Park. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

OXFORD – Spring Garden’s Ann Welsh has coached in enough state softball tournament games to know a team has to be strong mentally to make a deep run.

The fifth-ranked Lady Panthers showed flashes of mental toughness in their first two games at Oxford’s Choccolocco Park on Tuesday. They rallied past No. 8 Maplesville for a 5-3 victory to advance to the winners bracket, but an eight-inning 4-1 setback to third-ranked Leroy carried over against fourth-ranked Waterloo in a season-ending 15-0 loss in four innings.

The Lady Panthers finished the season at 30-12.

“It’s a big mental thing when you get down here,” Welsh said. “Sometimes it’s hard to forget and move on and just let it go, take the next game and see what it gives you. We just couldn’t let it go. It was a big letdown. I never thought our team would’ve carried it over from one game to the other.”

Things got off to a good start for the Lady Panthers. They overcame Maplesville to advance to the winners bracket against Leroy.

The Lady Panthers proved tough mentally through seven innings, battling the Lady Bears to a 1-1 tie to force extra innings.

But things began wavering in the top of the eighth inning.

With one out, Leroy catcher Grace Mitchell beat out a throw from third for an infield single. Third baseman Brookelyn Keith then drew a walk, giving the Lady Bears runners at first and second, bringing shortstop Hannah Howard to the plate.

Howard hit a ground ball to Spring Garden shortstop Helena Ingram, who went the short route to get the runner advancing to second. However, the toss to second was bobbled on the ground, allowing two runs to score. Second baseman Liz Baugh then belted a triple to right center to score another run to make the score 4-1. The Lady Panthers caught Baugh trying to score at the plate, but by that point, the damage had been done.

Spring Garden did manage to load the bases in the bottom half of the eighth with two outs, but senior second baseman Maggie Reedy sent a grounder to Keith at third, who stepped on the bag for the final out of the game.

Spring Garden then had to turn around to face Waterloo, but the Leroy loss seemed to linger. More defensive miscues and a dry spell at the plate proved to be the Lady Panthers’ downfall.

Waterloo put the game away early. The Lady Cougars sent 10 batters to the plate against Spring Garden starting pitcher Avery Steward in the bottom of the first inning and scored five runs. They added three more in the second for an 8-0 advantage. Another five-run inning in the third gave Waterloo a 13-0 advantage. The Lady Cougars ended it in the fourth with a pair of unearned runs.

“We made too many errors, especially in that last game,” Welsh said. “I don’t know where they came from, other than just overthinking.”

Steward logged most of the time in the circle. She earned the win over Maplesville after allowing three earned runs on six hits with a walk and eight strikeouts.

Steward allowed just one earned run through seven innings on four hits with a pair of strikeouts against Leroy, but things became unraveled in the top of the eighth.

Steward started the Waterloo game, but only lasted 2 2/3 innings.

“She pitched hard today,” Welsh said. “I hate when she works hard and they don’t back her up. It was easy plays that we didn’t make today: ground balls, make a throw, catch the ball. It’s not like we were diving, jumping up and throwing the ball across the field. We just didn’t make the easy plays.”

The game marked the end of the career for Reedy, the Lady Panthers’ lone senior. She had a hit and scored a run against Maplesville, and a double and a walk against Leroy, not to mention several of defensive web gems scattered throughout the Lady Panthers’ three games.

“She’s going to be missed,” Welsh said of Reedy. “She really stepped up this year. She’s come through in some big situations. She gives it her all. Numerous times throughout the year she’s been the one up when we needed a hit or needed something going. She has stepped up and been a leader. She leads by not saying a word. She’s a great player, a great person.”

Although the Lady Panthers will miss Reedy’s presence next season, Welsh returns the rest of this year’s Spring Garden squad. She’s hopeful for another run at state next season.

“It’s just a matter of how bad you want it and what you want to do to get better before next year, what you have to do for yourself to make the team better,” she said. “They all have a deep desire to do good, and I feel like they’ll keep working hard and we’ll be back.”

Spring Garden’s Helena Ingram, left, gives a pair of high-fives to first base coach Stephanie Steward following a hit against Leroy. at the Class 1A state tournament in Oxford on Tuesday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.
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