Apr. 9—The Calhoun County softball tournament took a year off because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but guess who's waiting for an opponent in the finals.
Reigning champion Alexandria validated its top seed, beating No. 2 Pleasant Valley 5-4 in Thursday's winners' bracket final at Woodland Park.
The Valley Cubs (19-9) will play the elimination bracket survivor between Pleasant Valley, White Plains and Piedmont in today's 7:30 p.m. final on Jacksonville State's University Field.
Pleasant Valley (21-11) will play the White Plains-Piedmont winner at 6 p.m.
Alexandria beat White Plains 4-1 earlier Thursday.
"Winning two close games and being pushed like we have has been good for our team," Alexandria coach Brian Hess said. "As a coach, you want to make it easier, but as the kids play, the games are going to get tighter toward the end of the season."
Thursday's winners' bracket final was a pitching showdown between Alexandria's Rylee Gattis and Pleasant Valley's Leah Patterson, two of the county's best in the circle.
Gattis worked all five innings, allowing five hits, one walk and only two earned runs with seven strikeouts.
"Rylee spun the ball really well tonight," Hess said. "I was very proud of Rylee. We've got some things to iron out, swinging the bat, but I like where we're heading."
Gattis also drove in a run with two hits, including a double.
Patterson pitched four innings, allowing four hits and no earned runs with a walk and six strikeouts. The Raiders (21-11) committed six errors, three in Alexandria's four-run second inning.
Bailey Harris hit a solo home run for the Raiders, and Lily Henry doubled twice and drove in two runs.
"I was proud of my team," Pleasant Valley coach David Bryant said. "We played them first game of the year and lost 10-1. We had lots of errors and didn't really play to our capability.
"Tonight, my kids played really hard. It's kind of a measuring stick of where we started and where we're at now."
Pleasant Valley 5, Oxford 2: Ava Boozer's solo home run gave the Raiders a 3-1 lead, and Bailey Harris' two-run single with two outs gave them cushion.
Starting pitcher Leah Patterson finished it off. She worked five innings with nine strikeouts, allowing six hits and four walks.
Alexandria 4, White Plains 1: Addie Jennings doubled and drove in two runs, and Rylee Gattis had an RBI as the Valley Cubs advanced. Gattis went the distance in the circle, allowing three hits and one earned run with five strikeouts and no walks in five innings.
Adriana Sotelo drove in White Plains' run.
Piedmont 11, Oxford 0: Fourth-seeded Piedmont scored its third victory of the day while eliminating No. 3 Oxford.
The Bulldogs, who eliminated Wellborn and Ohatchee earlier Thursday, will play White Plains today at 4:30 p.m. on JSU's University Field.
"This is what we've been capable of all season," Piedmont coach Rachel Smith said. "It's just been frustrating. We've been close to beating really good teams, within a run or two, and it's just been heartbreaker after heartbreaker after heartbreaker for us.
"Our girls have done a good job of keeping their head up, because they know what they're capable of doing."
Piedmont spread out seven hits and took advantage of six Oxford errors. Jenna Calvert went 2-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs. Savannah Smith, Z'Hayla Walker, Jaycee Glover and Maddy Byers each drove in a run, and Walker hit a double.
Emily Farmer got it done in the circle, allowing five hits, no runs and no walks with three strikeouts.
White Plains 6, Jacksonville 2: Reece Roberts doubled and drove in two runs, and Jaylee Crow pitched 3 2/3 perfect innings of relief as No. 5 seed White Plains rallied from 2-0 deficit.
The Wildcats took the lead with a four-run third inning then added a run in the fourth and two in the fifth to advance to the final day of the tournament. They will play Piedmont today at 4:30 p.m.
"I'm proud of us," White Plains coach Rachel Ford said. "We were down. Jacksonville got up on us a little bit, and we could've died and quit playing, but we didn't."
White Plains also got two hits, including a double, and an RBI from Hallie Williams. Callie Richardson and Kaylee Johnson doubled, and Johnson drove in a run.
Dailyn Wood and Brenna Stone each drove in a run for Jacksonville.
Piedmont 10, Ohatchee 2: Smith and Grace Epperson drove in two runs apiece, Walker had two doubles and scored two runs, and Emma Todd had a double, RBI and run.
Smith went the distance in the circle, spreading out eight hits with one earned run, one walk and two strikeouts.
Alyssa Davis went 2-for-2 and drove in a run for Ohatchee. Hannah Fitch and Anna Bryant had two hits apiece.
Jacksonville 9, Weaver 6: Wood went 3-for-4 with a double and drove in a run, and Libby Strain went 2-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI to pace Jacksonville. Jacksonville also got two hits and an RBI from Anna Seeger.
The Golden Eagles scored three runs in the fourth inning and two in the fifth to take the lead.
Weaver's Kinley Marvasty went 2-for-4 with a double two RBIs, and Hannah Hise went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. Tiana Lawrence had a double among her two hits.
Weaver 2, Saks 0: Kynlee Fulmer tossed a four-hit shutout with seven strikeouts over five innings, and Haley Homesley and Madison Atchley drove in a run apiece to keep Weaver alive. Homesley hit a double.
Saks' Raina Zackery pitched four innings, holding Weaver to four hits and one earned run. She struck out eight batters.
Ohatchee 11, JCA 5: Abbi Whitehead drove in three runs, and Davis drove two home to lead Ohatchee. Kylee Barnes, Savannah Reaves and Ellie Carden had two hits apiece.
Abbie Stovall led JCA, going 3-for-3 with an RBI. Hannah Clayton and Erin Prater went 2-for-3. Rebakah Carter and Krymson Clay each drove in a run.
Piedmont 10, Wellborn 0: Walker homered, and she, Smith and Farmer drove in two runs apiece as the Bulldogs advanced. All three players had two hits.
Calvert and Reese Franklin also drove in runs.
Todd allowed four hits, no runs and one walk with five strikeouts.
Destiny Benefield had two singles for Wellborn. Autumn Parsons, Brianna Wyatt and Heather Downs each had a hit.
2021 Calhoun County softball tournament
At Woodland Park
Game 1: No. 8 Ohatchee 14, No. 9 Saks 1
Game 2: No. 5 White Plains advances due to lack of No. 12 seed
Game 3: No. 7 Jacksonville 8, No. 10 Wellborn 2
Game 4: No. 6 Weaver 11, No. 11 Jacksonville Christian 4
Game 5: No. 1 Alexandria 9, Ohatchee 1
Game 6: No. 5 White Plains 11, No. 4 Piedmont 5
Game 7: No. 2 Pleasant Valley 6, Jacksonville 3
Game 8: No. 3 Oxford 14, Weaver 0
At Woodland Park
Game 9: Jacksonville advances due to lack of No. 12 seed
Game 10: Weaver 2, Saks 0
Game 11: Piedmont 10, Wellborn 0
Game 12: Ohatchee 11, Jacksonville Christian 5
Game 13: Alexandria 4, White Plains 1
Game 14: Pleasant Valley 5, Oxford 2
Game 15: Jacksonville 9, Weaver 6
Game 16: Piedmont 10, Ohatchee 2
Game 17: Alexandria 5, Pleasant Valley 4
Game 18: White Plains 7, Jacksonville 2
Game 19: Piedmont 11, Oxford 0
At University Field
Game 20: White Plains vs. Piedmont, 4:30 p.m.
Game 21: Pleasant Valley vs. Game 20 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 22: Alexandria vs. Game 21 winner, 7:30 p.m.
Game 23: If-necessary game, 9 p.m.
NOTE: In case of inclement weather on Friday, the final day of the tournament will move to April 29.
Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.