Softball season is off to a solid start at Cleburne County. After a week of games, the Tigers are 3-3 with two of the three losses coming to Pell City and Oxford, both excellent 6A programs, and the third to perennial state tournament participant Handley in Roanoke.
“I’m very pleased,” Cleburne County coach Ron Ervin said prior to Wednesday ‘s practice. “We’re playing a very tough schedule this year. We tried to amp it up a little bit. We really want to take our program to the next level so we’re playing a very, very competitive schedule.”
As a part of that schedule upgrade, the Ervin and the Tigers hosted Oxford Tuesday night. Oxford brought a big crowd and a large contingent of Cleburne County fans came, too. No one left feeling shortchanged as it took eight innings before the Yellow Jackets won 8-5.
Ervin said the Tigers fell behind 5-1 early. Senior Kaity Zeiders drove in freshman Kiara Akles to make it 5-2 and the pair combined for another run on their next at-bats. To send the game into extra innings at 5-5, Shay Henson bunted for a base hit, moved around to third base then stole home.
“They played well. I was very happy with our effort,” Ervin said of the Oxford game.
Akles finished with three hits, including a pair of doubles, in four trips to the plate. Zeiders and Amber Parker each had two hits. Zeiders mashed a triple and a double.
Cleburne County hosted its annual round tournament Friday and Saturday to start the season. The Tigers opened the tournament with a 2-0 win over Clay Central on Friday night. Akles allowed two hits and fanned five in the shutout. She was 2-for-2 with a home run and a double. Zeiders and Alisa Norton each had a double. Bailey Beam and Toni Epps had a base hit apiece.
Cleburne County defeated Gadsden City 7-6 and Piedmont 10-2 Saturday to reach the championship game. Parker, a freshman, pitched all six innings against the Titans for the win and struck out three. In the sixth, Henson went to second base on international tiebreaker rules, stole third and came home with the winning run on a wild pitch. Epps and Zeiders each had a double and a single and Epps scored two runs. Akles and Kristen Leggett each had a pair of singles for the Tigers. Norton doubled and scored and Madison Jones singled and scored.
Against Piedmont, Akles pitches all five innings and struck out eight. Norton, Jones and Epps had three hits and an RBI apiece and Norton doubled. Akles and Zeiders each had two hits and two RBIs in three at-bats. Akles recorded a pair of doubles. Epps scored three times, Jones twice and Akles twice.
After finishing 3-0 in its preliminary games, Cleburne County met Pell City in Saturday’s championship game and lost 6-4. The Tigers led 3-2 after one inning, then 4-2 before the Panthers tied the score at 4-4 on a home run. Parker had four strikeouts against Pell City. She was 2-for-3 at the plate and scored two runs. Jones had a double and a single in three trips to the plate. In addition to Parker, Akles and Angel Norton scored for Cleburne County.
The Tigers begin Class 4A, Area 10 play today at Anniston. Cleburne County travels to Alexandria on Tuesday.