Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer|
Whitney Fletcher, foreground, and Decatur coach Ashley Mueller smile after Fletcher scored the winning run against city rival Austin on Monday night. The Lady Red Raiers won 3-2 in 12 innings.
Fletcher's speed ends game in 12th
Decatur sneaks past
city rival in softball
By Brooke Milam
email@example.com · 340-2460
Decatur High's Whitney Fletcher might never have run faster for home plate than when she rounded third base in the bottom of the 12th inning against city rival Austin on Tuesday.
Fletcher blasted a triple to left centerfield and hardly looked as the throw came her way near third base.
She was headed home.
An overthrown ball to third scored Fletcher on the play and ended the extra-inning contest for the Lady Red Raiders in a 3-2 win.
"I was going — I couldn't stop," Fletcher said. "I slid early so I wouldn't get out because I was scoring the winning run."
Decatur coach Ashley Mueller said she realized after Fletcher smashed the ball into the outfield that it could be a game-winner.
"I told her to hit the ball like we'd talked about and that's exactly what she did, and then she turned on her wheels," Mueller said.
Despite the dramatic ending, defense was the the story most of the night.
Clutch fielding stretched the game to 12 innings, while both teams consistently made contact with the ball.
"I think both defenses picked it up," Mueller said. "There were some outstanding plays tonight on both teams' ends."
Defense kept a game that was tied at 2 in second inning, scoreless through the next 91/2.
Decatur went up 2-0 in the first inning when Fletcher led off with a double and then scored on a double by Jennifer Lawrence. Lindsey Hawkins drove in Lawrence for Decatur's second run.
Austin's Haley Barnette drove in Ali Barnette and Amy Anderson, tying the game at 2 in the second.
Each team recorded 10 hits.
Austin second baseman, Tara May, made four diving catches, halting Decatur's momentum during the stretch amid a slew of other saves.
But the Lady Black Bears could not overcome 10 runners left on base in the game.
"You always hope to score a lot of runs, but we left a lot of people on base," Austin coach Butch Wright said. "We had our chances. I wish we could have had a big inning and scored, but they got the job done and got us out."
Meg Whitten pitched all 12 innings for Decatur, striking out six, including three that ended innings with Austin runners in scoring position.
"Meg has really grown this past week," Mueller said. "She has been called to step up, and she has stepped up."
Whitten has carried the bulk of the pitching load for the Lady Red Raiders with sophomore Mollie Russell suffering from an ankle injury.
Mueller said Russell is expected to be game-ready this week.
Austin seniors Emily Payne and Izzy Gillespie combined for Austin on the mound, striking out one batter apiece.
Payne got the start and went seven innings before Gillespie took over.
"We played good defense, and the pitching was good," Wright said. "You hold Decatur to two runs until they score in the 12th, and you've done some things good."
Austin (21-32) will host West Morgan on Tuesday at 5 p.m. before beginning Class 6A, Area 16 tournament play Thursday at 4 p.m. against Bob Jones at Sparkman High's field. Decatur (37-19) will host the 5A, Area 16 tournament, playing Russellville on Thursday at 4 p.m.
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