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State Softball

State Softball

Alexandria falls one game short of Class 5A finals. Piedmont, Pleasant Valley each goes 1-2 as Bulldogs complete fourth consecutive state-tourney run and Raiders complete their fifth in seven years.

Alexandria coach Brian Hess talks to the Valley Cubs after their 4-1 loss to Jasper in Thursday’s Class 5A elimination game of the state tournament at Choccolocco Park. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Alexandria, Class 5A

JASPER 4, ALEXANDRIA 1: Pressley Slaton spread out five hits with five strikeouts over seven innings, but Jasper’s Melissa Odom struck out 10 batters while spreading out five hits as the Vikings eliminated the Valley Cubs.

Christian Hess went 2-for-3 and drove in Alexandria’s lone run.

“Their pitcher is doing to go D-1 before it’s over,” Alexandria coach Brian Hess. “We’ll fight back. We’ll be back next year. There’s no doubt in my mind.”

Jasper advanced to the finals and will face Moody. Alexandria finished 35-15-1.

Alexandria will lose seniors Clancy Bright, Jill Cockrell and Christian Hess. They led Alexandria back to the state tournament after a year’s absence.

“It’s been a heck of a ride,” said Brian Hess, Christian’s father. “They were the seasoned veterans, and they’ve done everything. They kept telling me, ‘We’ve got to get back to state,’ and that’s what they did. They willed this team to where we were in position to get in the finals. It just wasn’t mean to be today..”

Brian Hess called Alexandria’s season “a somewhat surprising season.”

‘When you have to play an eighth grader at shortstop and an eighth-grader in right field, and to get here and be consistent?” he said. “I think the most we’ve lost is three in a row, and we’ve always been able to bounce back.

“Just to be able to have the grueling schedule we had and to come out with a 35-15 record, something like that, I’m proud of them. Proud of the senior leadership.”

Savannah Smith deals against Excel during Thursday’s Class 3A state tournament action at Choccolocco Park. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Piedmont, Class 3A

PLAINVIEW 7, PIEDMONT 2: Cayla Brothers hit a solo home run, and Cacey Brothers added an RBI double, but Plainview advanced in the elimination bracket.

The Bulldogs finished 25-12 after making their fourth consecutive state-tournament appearance … the first four in the program’s fastpitch history.

Piedmont coach Rachel Smith and daughter Savannah embrace after the Bulldogs’ state-tournament run ended Thursday. (Photo by Joe Medley)

The Bulldogs opened with a 2-1 loss to St. James, rallied to beat Excel 5-4 then lost to Plainview. Plainview also beat Piedmont at the East Regional last week.

“I’m just really super proud of how this team has performed all year long,” Smith said. “They’ve found ways to win ball games when our backs were against the wall. I think we exhibited that today, when we played against one of the best teams in the state.

“It’s tough to come here and take a loss and try to fight your way back through the losers’ bracket. Either way, we knew we were going to have to go through Plainview at some point. I thought we gave them a good game.”

The Plainview game marked the final high school game for seniors Jaycee Glover, Ava Pope and Savannah Smith. Piedmont’s run of state-tourney appearances tracked their high school years.

“What an accomplishment,” Rachel Smith said. “I think it’s a testament to our girls and how hard they’ve worked and how they’ve bought into what we’re trying to do as a program. They know what level of ball is played at the state tournament, and we’ve worked to that level day in and day out at practice.”

Savannah Smith has signed to play for Jacksonville State University after collaborating with her mom to help Piedmont become a state-level program. The two shared a tearful embrace after Savannah Smith broke down the team huddle.

“It’s been a joy to coach her,” Rachel Smith said. “I’ve told her, when she decided that she wanted to play softball, I said this is going to be because you want it for you, not because I want it for you. The intrinsic motivation that it’s going to required to play at an elite level is going to have to come from you. …

“She held herself to that standard, and I’ve been the lucky one that has just got to be a long for the ride and to have the front-row seat. It’s been a joy to coach her, and it’s meant the world to me.”

PIEDMONT 5, EXCEL 4: Piedmont rallied for four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to stave off elimination and will play Plainview at 5:45.
FINAL: Piedmont eliminated, 7-2.

Piedmont’s rally started with Amiyah Thomas’ one-out single, and Thomas reached third base when Amaree Champion reached on an error. Cadance Buttram’s RBI single made it 4-2, and Cayla Brothers followed with an RBI double.

Savannah Smith brought home the tying run on a bloop single to right field, and Carson Young’s sacrifice fly to deep left-center field scored Brothers for the winning run.

Smith got the win in relief, allowing one hit in 4 1/3 innings with five strikeouts. She took over the circle after Excel scored four runs in the third inning.

ST. JAMES 2, PIEDMONT 1: Emily Needham held Piedmont to six hits and struck out 11 batters as the Trojans (37-2) advanced to the winners’ bracket.

Piedmont will play Excel at 2:30 p.m.

Piedmont’s Savannah Smith held St. James to five hits with four strikeouts, and Carson Young singled home the Bulldogs’ lone run, in the fourth inning.

Cacey Brothers went 2-for-3 with a double.

Pleasant Valley pitcher Lily Henry throws to second baseman Abigail Evans for a force play during the Raiders’ Class 2A state tourney elimination game against Pisgah on Thursday at Choccolocco Park. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Pleasant Valley, Class 2A

PISGAH 9, PLEASANT VALLEY 1: Alexa Cranmer had four of Pleasant Valley’s eight hits, but the Raiders struggled to string together rallies as Pisgah moved on in the elimination bracket.

Cranmer was 4-for-4 and scored the Raiders’ lone run.

Madyson Cromer went 2-for-3 with an RBI to finish off a strong senior season.

“I’ve got to do my stats, but Madyson Cromer has a strong back,” Pleasant Valley coach David Bryant said. “She had one of the best high school softball seasons, probably one of the best ever at Pleasant Valley, as far as offensive stats and as a catcher. She’s going to be in a lot of records, state AHSAA records. I know she batted over .600 this year against a grinder of a schedule.”

Pleasant Valley finished 21-19-1 against a schedule loaded with higher classified teams. A year after going 2-2 at state, the Raiders went 1-2. The Raiders have reached the state tournament five of the past seven years.

“Our season has been kind of a grinder,” Bryant said. “Our season that we’ve had, they just never quit, and I’m just super proud of them.”

WICKSBURG 14, PLEASANT VALLEY 0: Pleasant Valley managed four hits to Wicksburg’s 14 and dropped to the elimination bracket to face Pisgah at 4:14 p.m. Alexa Cranmer had two of Pleasant Valley’s hits, both singles.

PLEASANT VALLEY 7, HORSESHOE BEND 3: Alexa Cranmer, Madyson Cromer and Lilly Robinson drove in two runs apiece, and the Raiders opened state-tourney play with a victory.

Pleasant Valley advances to the winners’ bracket and will play Wicksburg at 12:30 p.m.

Against Horseshoe Bend, Comer was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Cranmer was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, and Robinson was 1-for-2 with two RBIs.

Lily Henry had a single and RBI and got the win, allowing five hits with two strikeouts over five innings. Haylie Lee worked two hitless innings of relief.

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