“In 27 years of coaching, this team has come farther from December to May than any other I’ve been associated with,” the veteran baseball and softball mentor declared. “We had less talent to work with than any other team I’ve had, but they have worked hard and improved the entire year.”
“If you’d told me back before the season began that we’d win 20 games I wouldn’t have believed you,” he added. “We (the coaches) have gotten everything out of these girls that we could have gotten. These girls gave it their all, especially these seniors (Lilly Cuzzort, Lydia Triplett, Sydney Sloan, Jordan Triplett). They have made the region playoffs each of the past four years, which had never been done here at Polk.
“We came through a lot of adversity and had to fight and scrape all year against teams with talented athletes and we stayed right with them,” Coach Triplett concluded. “Last night’s game does not define this team or this season for us.”
Despite fending off the majority of East Hamilton’s 14 base runners in Monday’s Region 3-AA opener, it was the four extra-base hits that did in the Lady Wildcats.
For the second straight season, the District 5-AA runner-up Lady Wildcats had to journey to the home of the District 6-AA champion Lady Hurricanes and once against prevailing winds didn’t favor the girls from Benton in a 4-2 hard-fought battle.
Polk County wraps up the 2013 diamond campaign with a 20-17 record, while East Hamilton (19-12-2) will entertain District 5-AA champ Meigs County, a 7-1 winner over Hixson Monday, in Wednesday’s Region 3-AA championship game.
The Lady ’Canes struck first Monday as leadoff hitter Shaliyah Geathers opened the bottom of the first by bringing up chalk just beyond third base for a double.
After she moved to third on a groundout, Polk pitcher Hannah Triplett was on the brink of getting out of the jam with a strikeout and an 0-2 count to the East Hamilton cleanup batter, but the left-handed swinging Maria Walshe was able to reach out on a pitch off the outside corner and slice it 180 feet, dropping it just inside the left-field line for a double of her own. Another run came home when the next batter singled before the at bat ended.
In a 2-0 hole, Polk County answered immediately when Cuzzort led off the second with a single up the middle. Two batters later Jordan Triplett then beat out an infield hit and the pair moved up on a passed ball. Felecia Johnson surprised the Lady ’Cane defense with a two-out bunt single to plate Cuzzort and Jordan Triplett came home as well on the play, thanks to an error, to tie the score.
Neither team scored again until the bottom of the fifth, when the hosts got a leadoff double by Emma Brooks, who scored a moment later on a one-out single by Geathers. The speedy Geathers, who went 4-for-4 in the game, scored all the way from first on a double by Barnes to provide the final score.
Polk managed just five hits off the hard-throwing left-handed Walshe’s offerings, with Jordan Triplett going 2-for-3.
Polk County 020 000 0 — 2 5 1
East Hamilton 200 020 x — 4 11 1
WP: Maria Walshe 7 IP, 4 Ks, 0 BB, 5 hits, 1 ER. LP: Hannah Triplett 6 IP, 3 Ks, 2 BB, 11 hits, 4 ER. 2B: Shaliyah Geathers, Walshe, Emma Brooks, B. Barnes (EH); RBI: Felecia Johnson (PC); A.Phillips, Walshe, Geathers, Barnes (EH). Highlights: Jordan Triplett 2-3; Lilly Cuzzort 1-3, run (PC); Geathers 4-4, 2B, RBI, 2 runs; Walshe 2-3, 2B, RBI (EH). Records: Polk County 20-17; East Hamilton 19-12-2.