OXFORD -- Sylacauga High School’s softball team fell to Shelby County 16-1 in three innings in the Class 5A East Central Regional Tournament at Choccolocco Park in Oxford on Saturday.
The loss ended the season for the Lady Aggies.
“We run up on a top-five team (Marbury) in the first round,” Lady Aggies coach Jay Brooks said. “We battled back (Friday night) and earned our way into today, then we ran up on another top-five team.
“This region is very strong. I am going to be shocked and surprised if the two teams that beat us in this regional are not in Montgomery playing for the whole thing. They are quality teams. Sometimes you run into a buzz saw, and that’s what happened.”
Sylacauga went 1-2 in the double-elimination tournament, with its lone win coming against Demopolis 8-6 on Friday night.
This spring marked the second time in three years the Lady Aggies qualified for regionals, but Brooks said his players aren’t satisfied with just making the tournament.
“For a long time, it has been OK for our program to get to the regional tournament, and our girls are sick and tired of it,” Brooks said. “Now, it is not about coming to regionals, it is about coming to regionals and doing well and taking that next step.
“All the adversity and running into this is just seasoning us, preparing us for when it is our time. Right now, it is not our time for whatever the reason is.”
The Lady Wildcats put the game out of reach in the top of the first inning, scoring nine runs.
Sylacauga’s lone run came in the second. McKenzie Merkel scored on an RBI groundout by Keleigh Smith.
Shelby County iced the game in the top of the third, pushing across six runs, which put the mercy rule into effect.
Sylacauga’s only hit also came in the second on an infield single by Raegan Willis.
Eighth-grader Lani Varner was losing pitcher.
Sylacauga had an inexperienced team this season after losing seven seniors who went on to play college softball from the 2018 squad.
Brooks said no one expected this team to reach the regionals. The Lady Aggies skipper credits the leadership of senior Maddi Ingram for helping this team accomplish a goal it set in the preseason.
“She has been here (to the regional tournament), Brooks said. “She was here in the seventh grade. She was here in the ninth grade, and she is back. She made the younger girls believe that it was possible.
“Because of who she is and how she goes about her business, they believed her. That trust that she developed with them … She is going to be greatly missed. What she has meant to our program, I am not educated enough to put it into words.
“I would do it a huge disservice if I tried to talk about how much that kid meant to our program. She embodies who we want all our student-athletes to be.
“She is a 4.0 student that also been an all-county softball player for the last five years. She has been a six-year letterman. She is what’s great about Sylacauga female athletics.”
Ingram led the Lady Aggies (18-11) to their first Class 5A, Area 7 title this spring.
“I think we worked harder this year than we have ever,” Ingram said. “I think we got rewarded this season for that.
“I know this goes for me and Keleigh; we put our heart, soul and everything that we had into this team. Even though we came up short, I think we got everything we could out of it.”
Saturday was the final time for Smith and Ingram to wear their black uniforms with cardinal lettering and numerals.
Smith said her goal for the tournament was to have fun playing with Ingram, just in case this wound up as the last appearance of their high school careers.
“For us, it was just enjoying our days together,” Smith said. “We knew if this was our last day together, that we wanted to be next to one another, play together and have fun. We talked about having fun no matter what in this game, no matter the outcome.”