Fast start

Jess Darling pitched two innings against TC Central on Friday.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Fayetteville High School’s softball team scored eight runs in the first inning of a 9-3 victory over Talladega County Central in the second round of the 2019 Talladega County Tournament on Friday night.

Lady Wolves junior Allye Buttram scored the first and last run of the frame and finished the game 2 for 2 with an RBI. Natalie Liner, Emma Ray, Emma Poore, Brynlee Bassett, Rayleigh Chappell and Maggie Grace Brooks also made a trip around the bases.

“I think we performed a lot better in the TC Central game than we did in the B.B. Comer game this morning (a 7-1 Lady Wolves’ win in the first round),” Fayetteville head coach Leigh Holley said. “One of the goals that we had set for this game was for us to hit the ball with a little bit more authority and be more disciplined at the plate by having better pitch selection.

“We swung at some pitches in the first ballgame that we weren’t going to be able to hit and be successful with … (The TC Central game) was an improvement for us.”

The Lady Wolves loaded the bases in the bottom of the second, but TC Central pitcher Faith Johnson and her defense kept them from completely clearing the bases. Fayetteville mustered one run from Liner on a single by Ray to extend the lead to 9-0.

The Lady Fighting Tigers put three runs on the board in the top of the third courtesy of Johnson, Davionna Stockdale and Janyia Wallace. TC Central loaded the bases with less than 10 minutes remaining in the contest (county tournament games are being played under a 75-minute time limit), but Fayetteville pitcher Hana Green struck out Taniya Garrett to effectively end the game.

“We made some mistakes in the beginning, and I think the girls got a little down on themselves,” TC Central first-year head coach Acardia Garrett said. “That caused some more mistakes. We missed some routine plays in the infield, a routine play in the outfield and I think they just started second-guessing all the other plays. It kind of snowballed on us, and they got the big lead on us.”

Garrett said he was proud of his girls for settling down and battling in just their second game of the season.

“Johnson, our pitcher, started throwing strikes and balls to get them to put the ball in play a little more,” he said. “We were able to make some better plays on defense. We got a little bit more confident as the game goes on … I was really proud of the way they responded because they could’ve stayed down in the dumps and not came back and put the bat on the ball in that later inning. It could’ve been worse than what it was, but they responded.”

Garrett isn’t the only new addition to TC Central’s coaching staff. The Lady Fighting Tigers have gotten a lift from Niki Pitts, a Talladega County school resource officer who has jumped into the fold to help the coaching staff.

“She brings a wealth of softball knowledge,” Garrett said. “She’s a great softball player. The kids know her and they respond well to her. She really does get the most out of them. We’re thrilled to have her. She comes over and helps us out everyday when she gets off work. She’s passionate about winning.”

Jess Darling picked up the win for Fayetteville. The junior went two innings and struck out four while allowing one hit in 27 pitches.

Holley said Darling’s light workload against TC Central was so the coach could get a look at the rest of the pitching staff and save Darling for the remainder of the tournament.

“We’ve really been trying to get Hana some extra innings,” Holley said. “We know that Jess is going to need some help on down the stretch when we get into postseason play ... Hana’s new to varsity this year. She pitched some on JV last year, so we’ve got to figure out what she’s capable of doing and figure out exactly what her role with the varsity team is going to be. We’ve got to get her some innings now to help build her some confidence and let our kids get some confidence about her being on the mound.”

Fayetteville will face Lincoln today at 3 p.m.