The Lady Wildcats made good on their pledge Thursday with a pair of wins in the AHSAA Class 3A state softball tournament at Lagoon Park. No. 7 Saks defeated Trinity 2-1 in its opening-round game, then triumphed 3-2 against defending state champion Pisgah to remain in the winners bracket.
“It’s the difference between us being able to go back to the motel, relax and go out and somewhere nice tonight,” Saks coach Mike Tucker said. “And come back at nine o’clock in the morning and we’re one win away from playing for the state championship.”
Saks (37-15) will face No. 6 Geneva today. Geneva advanced with victories against White Plains and Handley on Thursday.
A week ago, Saks found itself in the undesirable predicament of trying to battle back into title contention after dropping its first game at the North Central Regional tournament in Vestavia Hills. They played through last Friday and into Saturday morning, finishing the first day’s games after midnight.
After a few hours of sleep, the Lady Wildcats made the trip back to the Birmingham area from Anniston and put together back-to-back wins against Carbon Hill and Geneva to earn a spot in the state tournament.
But by the time their matchup against rival White Plains came around, the Lady Wildcats were exhausted and decided to rest many of their principals before falling 15-3 in five innings.
Thursday, no one looked livelier than junior pitcher Taylor West.
She mowed down 15 batters and walked one against Trinity.
The 6-foot-1 hurler was just as good against second-ranked Pisgah, which beat the Lady Wildcats 13-0 in last year’s state tournament. She struck out 11 while giving up four hits, all singles, and one earned run.
“Pressure’s good for me,” West said. “I like pressure. It just builds me up and makes me pitch better.”
Saks senior catcher Rebecca Bowen, who missed 15 games with turf toe earlier this season, came through with the game’s biggest hit against Pisgah.
She broke a 1-all tie when she slapped a two-run double to score West and Kelly Kilgore in the bottom of the fifth.
“I had been struggling all day and I just told myself before I got up there that I was going to hit the ball,” Bowen said. “She threw a pitch inside and I was just ready for it. I just took it where it was pitched.”
Pisgah added its final on run when Kilgore dropped a pop-up for what would’ve been the third out in the sixth. Things looked as if they could’ve been in jeopardy when West gave up a single to the next batter but she got Myriah Ball to ground out to get out of the inning.
Haley Cobb also had a hit against Pisgah and Kilgore knocked in a run.
“We didn’t get a ton of hits, Tucker said. “But what we’re starting to do in these pressure games is get hits and drive the runs in that win the ball games.”