Franklin Free Press
Belgreen softball coach Richie Hester knew that last Thursday’s game against rival Tharptown was going to be a tough one.
What he didn’t know, however, was that the real fun wasn’t even going to begin until Saturday.
Lauren Oliver and Laken Bragwell each delivered a clutch hit in the bottom of the sixth inning, and Bragwell retired the final 10 batters she faced on Saturday morning to close out a 3-2 win for Belgreen in a game that started on Thursday but was suspended for nearly a day-and-a-half due to inclement weather.
“It took us 43 hours to beat them,” Hester said on Monday night after the Lady Bulldogs (13-3 overall, 3-0 in Class 1A, Area 13) continued their winning ways by sweeping a doubleheader from Cherokee. “You can’t take anything away from Tharptown. They’ve got a really good team, and they’re still in it. I was proud of our girls, though. They really played together.”
Belgreen, ranked No. 10 in Class 1A in the most recent ASWA poll, will travel Thursday to face Hackleburg, which is also undefeated in Area 13 play. The Lady Bulldogs looked as though they might be headed for their first area loss last Thursday, when they had a runner thrown out at third and another cut down at home before the game was suspended with Tharptown leading 1-0 in the top of the fourth inning.
When play resumed Saturday morning, the Lady Wildcats immediately added another run on an RBI single by Cassidy Fuller to go up 2-0. Oliver then threw out Fuller attempting to steal, and Bragwell did not allow another runner to reach base the rest of the game.
“Laken really got into a groove,” Hester said.
Belgreen finally got on the board against Tharptown freshman Shelby Palmer in the bottom of the fifth. Bragwell and Bailey Clark both walked, and a hit by Allyson Bragwell loaded the bases. A run scored on an error to make it 2-1.
The Lady Bulldogs took their first lead in the bottom of the sixth. Seniors Erica Smith and Bridget Thompson started the inning with singles, but Smith was thrown out at third for the first out. Oliver then delivered an RBI double to tie the game, and Laken Bragwell followed with a single to bring home Oliver and give Belgreen a 3-2 lead.
Bragwell, who finished with six strikeouts and allowed six hits in a complete game, retired Tharptown in order in the top of the seventh to keep the Lady Bulldogs unbeaten in area play.
“It was a big area win for us, but we’ve got a lot of area games left, starting with one this week against Hackleburg,” Hester said. “Then next week we’ve got four area games. So it’s all going to be on the line next week.
“But our girls are playing well right now. We didn’t play our best [Monday] against Cherokee, but they played great on Saturday against Tharptown. As the season goes along, a lot of our young players are really getting better.”
Tharptown grabbed the early lead last Thursday in the top of the first inning when Autumn Sutter, Savannah Hamilton and Braeden Sellers opened the game with consecutive singles. Hamilton doubled in the third but was stranded.
On Monday, Belgreen rallied with two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Cherokee 7-6 in game one. Smith led off the inning with a triple, and Oliver tied the game with an RBI single. Laken Bragwell then delivered the game-winning hit with an RBI double.
Bragwell also had a triple in the game and finished 4-for-4 with three RBIs. Smith and Thompson each had three hits, and Oliver was 2-for-4.
Bragwell went the distance to earn the win.
In the second game, Smith, Thompson and Oliver each had four hits as Belgreen survived a late rally by Cherokee to win 11-8. Smith and Thompson each had a two-run double in the bottom of the fifth as the Lady Bulldogs scored six times to break open a close game and take an 11-3 lead.
Cherokee answered with five runs in the top of the sixth, but Bragwell came on in relief of Smith and recorded the final four outs to preserve the win. Smith pitched the first 5 2/3 innings to earn the win, and Bragwell picked up the save.