Belgreen, Red Bay advance to softball regionals

The Belgreen Bulldogs fought back from an early loss to the Hackleburg Panthers only to beat those same Panthers twice to win the Class 1A Area 14 tournament. Belgreen began regional play in Florence on Tuesday against Cherokee.

“Winning the area championship is exciting and rewarding. I have been blessed with a group of players that have fought, persevered, and grown tremendously this season,” said Belgreen coach Sander Tverberg. 

 “The players, coaching staff, and our Bulldog fans came together with a purpose in mind and I am ecstatic we achieved this as one on our home field. It’s great to get back to that championship after last year and these girls believed and achieved.”

Belgreen opened the tournament with an easy 15-1 win over Phillips with Lily Blackburn pitching a one-hitter. The Bulldog bats went silent in the next game managing only three hits in a 5-0 loss to Hackleburg.

Belgreen recovered from that loss the next day winning three straight, starting with an 11-0 win over Vina. Again, Blackburn was dominant in the circle with another one-hitter.

The Bulldogs fought back, needing to beat Hackleburg twice to win the area championship. Twice, it looked like the Panthers were going to take the title, but Belgreen kept fighting. 

Hackleburg led 2-1 after three innings and kept the lead through five innings. The Bulldogs tied the game in the bottom of the sixth inning on a Caitlyn Oliver single, scoring Morgan Vandiver.

The Panthers reclaimed the lead 3-2 in the top of the seventh. With the game on the line in the bottom half of the inning, Vandiver roped a double to the outfield, scoring Blackburn and Hannah Borden to win the game and force a deciding game.

With Belgreen excited and Hackleburg obviously deflated, the Bulldogs left no room for a dramatic ending to the championship game easily beating the Panthers 12-1. Borden and Makayla Willingham both hit home runs. Borden and Blackburn also hit doubles in the game.

“Generally after a loss like we had to Hackleburg early in the tournament your team may get divided, but these girls came together and Susie [Tverberg] tied it all up for us in her post-game speech,” said Sander Tverberg. “Belief in yourself, your team, your coaches, and our vision proved to be our motivator. The players came to the field with a focus and purpose like I have never seen in two years and they left it all on the field.”

Red Bay beat Tharptown to advance to the regionals in Class 2A. The Tigers and the Wildcats were knotted in a great pitching duel between Hannah Butler and Alyssa Fischer through five innings.

The game was knotted 1-1 through five innings of play. Butler, however, got the best of the Wildcats pitching a no-hitter. Red Bay finally broke the game open, scoring four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Red Bay lost to Winston County in the finals but will advance to regionals as the area runner up.

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