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SATURDAY, MAY 19, 2007
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Mount Hope spotless
Lady Yellow Jackets go 2-0 on first day of Class 1A softball tourney

By Bradley Handwerger
bhandwerger@decaturdaily.com · 340-2462

MONTGOMERY — Larry Kimbrough's players ran at him Friday afternoon, completely aware his attention was elsewhere.

And while the Mount Hope players didn't totally douse their head coach with a bucket full of water, the liquid that came out of several water bottles was more than enough to fulfill the job.

Kimbrough, of course, didn't really care.

Beating county rival Speake 2-1 in the winner's bracket quarterfinals certainly makes getting wet a lot easier.

A year after winning only 12 games, first-year coach Kimbrough has the Lady Yellow Jackets (31-19) two wins away from taking the Class 1A state softball championship.

"To be cross-county rivals, a lot of times you think of hatred and that's not true here," Kimbrough said. "These girls are friends. It means a lot for our program."

Mount Hope is in this position by virtue of not only its 2-1 win over Speake, but also a 7-0 opening-round win over Hubbertville.

"Playing the 4A and 6A schools (this season) has made them not as nervous as they could be," Kimbrough said. "To be 2-0 at this point is pretty good."

Friday afternoon’s game against Speake was the seventh time the teams had played this season. Heading into the contest, the Lady Bobcats (39-13) owned four wins.

Pitcher Elizabeth Kimbrough did her part to make sure Mount Hope earned its third win, and she was helped by Colie Stancil’s base running in the sixth.

Kimbrough allowed one run on six hits in seven innings.

“Mount Hope — call them a Cinderella team,” Speake head coach Doyle Hensley said.

“We knew it was going to be a tough time. Anytime you have Elizabeth Kimbrough on the mound, you’re going to have a chance.”

But she wouldn’t have picked up the win without Stancil’s game-winning run. In the sixth inning, Stancil singled and moved to second on a throwing error by the Speake catcher. With two outs, Haley Flannagan singled over the second baseman.

Stancil rounded third and headed home, where she was safe in a play at the plate.

“I just saw (Kimbrough) point to home plate and I knew I wasn’t that fast,” said Stancil, who went 1-for-3. “I saw (the catcher) take the front of the plate, so I went to the backside and slid in. I tried to keep away from her as much as I could.”

Speake took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth on a bizarre play. With the bags full, Chyna Colewell hit the ball to first.

Mount Hope’s Amber Lynch threw home, seemingly getting the force out at the plate.

Catcher Chelsea Fike threw back to first, getting Colewell out. The teams left the field, then minutes later returned when the officials ruled that Fike wasn’t on home plate, allowing Sarah Bolan to score from third.

“Just confusion there in what was going on, and it kind of went our way,” Hensley said.

Mount Hope tied the game in the bottom half of the inning when Britany McCormack scored from second on a throwing error by Speake’s first baseman.

Kylie Black took the loss for Speake, pitching seven innings in which she gave up two runs on seven hits.

And now Mount Hope, called a “dark horse” by a newspaper in the state prior to the beginning of the state tournament, has the title within its sight.

“We’re proving them wrong,” Stancil said. “Nobody thought we would, but we’re doing it.”

Mount Hope will play Kinston in the winners’ bracket semifinals Saturday at 10:30 a.m. The winner moves into the finals, while the loser falls to the losers’ bracket final.

Kinston 4, Athens Bible 0: Athens Bible allowed two runs on one hit and two errors in the first inning and couldn’t recover. Abbie Melvin took the loss, pitching 4 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on nine hits. Kirsten McClure went 2-for-3 with a single and a double to lead the Lady Trojans (43-11) at the plate. Athens Bible couldn’t solve Kinston freshman pitcher Bethany Holley, who went six innings, scattering four hits.

“She was throwing a drop ball outside, and we just never did adjust,” Athens Bible coach Tony Andrews said.

And now the Lady Trojans enter familiar territory. A year ago, they made the state finals after losing to Kinston in the second round before battling out of the losers’ bracket.

“We’ll come back tomorrow and try to do what we did (last year) and get back to the last game,” Andrews said. “All these girls were here last year. They’ve done it the last two years.”

Added Haley Chittam: “We’ve been here before. We know how hard it’s going to be to make it to the championship game.”

Nevertheless, Kinston appears to be on a mission. The 4-0 win over Athens Bible came hours after the Lady Bulldogs dispatched defending state champion Waterloo 15-0.

“We did not have a doubt we were going to win the first game,” Holley said. “We won 15-0, and after we won, we had no doubt we’d beat Athens Bible. We went into this game with a lot of confidence.”

Athens Bible will play Pleasant Home at 9 a.m. Saturday in a losers’ bracket game.

Mount Hope 7, Hubbertville 0: Mount Hope scored three runs in the first inning and another in the second for a 4-0 lead and never lost momentum. A two-RBI triple by Fike drove in Tiffany Sparks and Morgan Davis for a 6-0 advantage in the fourth. Stancil scored in the fifth inning, giving Mount Hope a 7-0 lead for the final margin. Kimbrough pitched the shutout, striking out six.

Mount Hope’s defense was solid behind Kimbrough, forcing Hubbertville to leave 10 runners on base.

Batting leadoff, Davis finished 3-for-4 with three singles and scored three runs for Mount Hope. Fike was also 3-for-4 with a triple, two singles, three RBIs, and scored a run.

Stancil had a pair of singles with an RBI and scored a run. Anna Roberson and McCormack each had a single with an RBI and scored a run, and Sparks had a single.

Speake 7, Pleasant Home 2: Black picked up the win, allowing two runs on four hits while striking out four. Speake scored all seven runs in the sixth to take a commanding 7-0 lead. Paige Atkins went 2-for-3 with a run scored, Revia Brown was 3-for-4 with a run scored and Black was 2-for-4 with a run scored.

Athens Bible 9, South Lamar 0: Melvin pitched the shutout, allowing six hits in seven innings while striking out eight.

The Lady Trojans scored two runs in the second, four in the third and three in the sixth to cruise to the win. McClure went 3-for-3 with two RBIs, two singles and a double. Brooke Chittam was 1-for-4, reaching base on a double and two errors, and had two RBIs.

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