Piedmont fights valiantly, but softball season ends

Report courtesy of Joe Medley, East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – Cayla Brothers hit a solo home run, and Cacey Brothers added an RBI double, but Plainview advanced in the elimination bracket.

The Bulldogs finished 25-12 after making their fourth consecutive state-tournament appearance … the first four in the program’s fastpitch history.

The Bulldogs opened with a 2-1 loss to St. James, rallied to beat Excel 5-4 then lost to Plainview. Plainview also beat Piedmont at the East Regional last week.

“I’m just really super proud of how this team has performed all year long,” Smith said. “They’ve found ways to win ball games when our backs were against the wall. I think we exhibited that today, when we played against one of the best teams in the state.

“It’s tough to come here and take a loss and try to fight your way back through the losers’ bracket. Either way, we knew we were going to have to go through Plainview at some point. I thought we gave them a good game.”

The Plainview game marked the final high school game for seniors Jaycee Glover, Ava Pope and Savannah Smith. Piedmont’s run of state-tourney appearances tracked their high school years.

“What an accomplishment,” Rachel Smith said. “I think it’s a testament to our girls and how hard they’ve worked and how they’ve bought into what we’re trying to do as a program. They know what level of ball is played at the state tournament, and we’ve worked to that level day in and day out at practice.”

Savannah Smith has signed to play for Jacksonville State University after collaborating with her mom to help Piedmont become a state-level program. The two shared a tearful embrace after Savannah Smith broke down the team huddle.

“It’s been a joy to coach her,” Rachel Smith said. “I’ve told her, when she decided that she wanted to play softball, I said this is going to be because you want it for you, not because I want it for you. The intrinsic motivation that it’s going to require to play at an elite level is going to have to come from you. …

“She held herself to that standard, and I’ve been the lucky one that has just got to be along for the ride and to have the front-row seat. It’s been a joy to coach her, and it’s meant the world to me.”

PIEDMONT 5, EXCEL 4: Piedmont rallied for four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to stave off elimination.

Piedmont’s rally started with Amiyah Thomas’ one-out single, and Thomas reached third base when Amaree Champion reached on an error. Cadence Buttram’s RBI single made it 4-2, and Cayla Brothers followed with an RBI double.

Savannah Smith brought home the tying run on a bloop single to right field, and Carson Young’s sacrifice fly to deep left-center field scored Brothers for the winning run.

Smith got the win in relief, allowing one hit in 4 1/3 innings with five strikeouts. She took over the circle after Excel scored four runs in the third inning.

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