After defeating the Itawamba AHS Lady Indians 9-8 in the first game of a best of three series in the first round of the 4A State Fast Pitch Softball Playoffs at Fulton Friday, the Cleveland High School Lady Wildcats were looking to go for the kill in game two. The second game of the series turned out to be a classic pitcher’s duel between Cleveland’s Brianna Garner and Itawamba’s Taylor Cresap. The game was another nail-biter, but Cleveland was able to get that run it needed to win the game 1-0 and complete the series sweep.
Cleveland (12-8) will now play Lewisburg in the second round this week with the series scheduled to begin Friday. Itawamba ended its season at 15-10.
“They’ve done really well this series,” Lady Wildcats head coach Jody Wright said about her team’s play. “We hit a rough patch toward the end of our season. My senior leadership and junior leadership took over and got those girls together. We came together at a good time.”
It was apparent early on that one run would be crucial. Garner had a no-hitter going through the first three innings. Cresap gave up a hit in each of the first three frames but the Lady Wildcats were held scoreless.
In the top of the fourth, Itawamba’s Maddie Forrest stroked a double with two outs to end Garner’s no-hit bit, but the next batter grounded out to keep the game knotted at 0-0.
In the bottom of the fourth, Cleveland was able to get the leadoff hitter on base as catcher Reagan Walker was hit by a pitch. Once Walker reached first, courtesy runner Caitlyn Rush entered the game to replace Walker on first. After the next two batters grounded out, the Lady Wildcats finally made the Lady Indians pay as Molly Upchurch roped a single to score Rush to make the score 1-0.
Itawamba AHS had its biggest threat to score in the top of the sixth. With one out, Tabitha Gillentine and Neely Grubbs roped back-to-back singles to put runners at first and second. Garner and the rest of the Cleveland defense didn’t panic. Itawamba’s Haley Floyd hit a ground ball to CHS shortstop Taylor Collins, who threw to third where her sister Lauren Ashley Collins was there to take the throw to tag Gillentine for the second out of the inning. The next batter, Forrest, tried to come up big as she hit a ball deep to left field, but Morgan Ray had the ball in her sights and made a long run to catch the ball in left field for the third out to preserve the 1-0 lead. Two of Ray’s three putouts came in the inning.
The sixth inning proved to be Itawamba’s last threat as Garner retired the side in order in the top of seventh to secure the win. Garner ended up yielding just three hits and struck out three batters without issuing a walk in the seven-inning complete game effort.
“Her arm has been a little sore here lately,” Wright said. “She came in and closed last night. She did a fabulous job today. She is relaxed and more comfortable here at home.”
Cresap suffered the tough luck loss as she gave up just one run on six hits in six innings of work.
Despite tagging just six hits, Cleveland made contact the entire day as Cresap failed to record a strikeout.
Walker drilled two doubles to lead Cleveland at the plate, followed by Upchurch with a hit and a RBI and Lauren Ashley Collins, Garner and Taylor Collins with a hit each.
In Friday’s game, Taylor Collins led Cleveland at the plate with two hits and three RBIs, followed by Upchurch and Ray with two hits and a RBI each, Kellie Cummins with two hits and Walker with a hit and two RBIs.
Taylor pitched the first three innings for Cleveland, and Garner pitched the last four innings to earn the win in the circle.