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White Plains players claim their plaque Friday after sweeping three games at the East Regional in Albertville. (Photo by Joe Medley)
White Plains players claim their plaque Friday after sweeping three games at the East Regional in Albertville. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Albertville, AL – Arnold, White Plains fight through rain to down Madison County, complete three-game sweep at East Regional for state-tourney berth

By Joe Medley

White Plains fought through three season-ending injuries to get to within one victory of a berth in next week’s state softball tournament, so what’s a little rain?

Actually, lots of rain.

True to form, the Wildcats tuned rain to gain. Leighton Arnold hit a clutch two-run home run to blunt Madison County’s momentum and pitched White Plains to a 4-3 victory in Friday’s Class 4A East Regional winners’ bracket final.

The victory clinched a state-tournament berth. White Plains (31-14) will play an opponent to be determined May 19 at 10:45 a.m. at Choccolocco Park.

“We’re excited,” first-year White Plains coach Tiffany Williams said. “We came here with a plan to play for each other. We wanted to go, and we did.”

White Plains claimed the East Regional’s top state-qualifying spot for Class 4A. (Photo by Joe Medley)
White Plains claimed the East Regional’s top state-qualifying spot for Class 4A. (Photo by Joe Medley)

White Plains beat Etowah and North Jackson on Thursday to get to the winners’ bracket final. Along with Madison County, the Wildcats had to play through a downpour in the early innings.

With injured Wildcats Cooper Martin, Kristen Rhodes and Braeton Moran watching from the dugout, White Plains emerged from the rain with a 4-0 lead.

This after the Wildcats scored four first-inning runs on no hits. With Madison County starter Gracyn Spicer struggling to grip the wet ball, she issued five walks and hit three batters before giving way to reliever Marion Gamble.

Arnold fared much better, walking six batters in seven innings. She held the Tigers to four hits and struck out nine batters.

Arnold face runners on second and third with one out in the fifth and sixth innings but pitched out of it.

“Honestly, I think I pitch better in the rain,” Arnold said. “It makes me focus a lot more. It makes me push harder.”

Madison County rallied to within 4-3. Emma Stewart’s second-inning, line-drive single to got under the glove of left fielder Ansley Prichard and rolled to the fence, allowing Aubrey Shaddix and Stewart to score.

Livy Huter walked to lead off the third, stole second, took third on a passed ball and scored on Allison Yeary’s grounder.

That set the table for Arnold’s latest display of power. Callie Richardson beat a throw for a two-out, infield single ahead of her, and Arnold sent a blast over the center-field fence to make it 6-3.

“I just knew that we had runners in scoring position, and I had to do a job,” Arnold said.

White Plains’ state-tourney berth is its first since 2019 and the first under Williams, who was promoted after long-time coach Rachel Ford stepped back from coaching a year ago.

Ironically, rain reared its ugly head the last time White Plains went to state. Soakings at the 2019 regional in Tuscaloosa forced White Plains to go home Saturday night and return Monday to beat Cordova and clinch a berth.

This year’s regional was played at Sand Mountain Park, which has artificial-turf fields.

“At first, we were a little nervous about it, with the playing conditions and safety, but we pulled through,” Williams said.

The Wildcats will have a week between games to prepare for state play.

“It doesn’t really matter, as long as we come to play like we did,” Williams said. [read more sports stories…]

 

White Plains players claim their plaque Friday after sweeping three games at the East Regional in Albertville. (Photo by Joe Medley)
White Plains players claim their plaque Friday after sweeping three games at the East Regional in Albertville. (Photo by Joe Medley)

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