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Hartselle Enquirer

Nailbiter: Lady Tigers punch ticket to the state tournament

The Lady Tigers are returning to the state tournament for the first time since 2019 after a dramatic come-from-behind win over Athens in the 6A North Regional.

In a nail-biting game that stretched over three hours, Hartselle managed to outlast the Lady Golden Eagles 17-16. The victory was sealed with a remarkable six-run surge in the bottom of the seventh inning.

“The girls never gave up and battled to the end,” Hartselle coach Anna Hall said. “I am so extremely proud of them.”

The Tigers took a 2-1 lead after the first when Kaelyn Jones and Zoe Hitt scored on singles by Brityan Godfrey and Katie Norgard.

Athens responded with seven runs in the top of the second inning to take an 8-2 lead.

Hartselle cut the lead to 8-5 in the bottom of the second when Katie Gillott hit a three-run home run, driving in Ryley Cate Wolf and Jones.

After holding Athens scoreless in the third inning, the Lady Tigers responded with four runs in the bottom of the inning. Jones and VK Hoyle scored on an RBI single by Brityan Godfrey. After an Athens pitching change, Blayne Godfrey singled to drive home Gillott to tie the game. Norgard then singled to left field, plating Blayne Godfrey.

After a scoreless fourth inning, Athens retook the lead with two runs on a double to left, making the score 10-9.

Hartselle would take the lead with two runs in the bottom of the fifth when Blayne Godfrey and Brooklyn Stiles scored on RBI singles.

The Lady Golden Eagles took their third lead of the game with six runs in the top of the seventh, giving them a 16-11 lead.

The Lady Tigers entered the bottom of the seventh, needing to rally for the third time to qualify for the state tournament.

And rally they did by scoring six runs in the bottom of the inning.

Hartselle loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batter, with leadoff hitter Jones coming to the plate. With a full count, Jones hit a grand slam over the right field fence, plating KJ Prater, Wolf and Hatsumi Peterson, drawing the Lady Tigers to within one run, 16-15.

“All that was going through my head after they walked Hat to get bases loaded was to stay simple, and I just needed to do enough to score a run and get to the next batter,” Jones said of her grand slam. “Our lineup has been solid all week. I had a crazy at-bat and got into a full count. I got a good barrel on it and the rest of the lineup followed up to finish with the win.”

After loading the bases again, Stiles was hit by a pitch that scored Gillott to tie the game at 16-16. Prater then singled to center field, driving home Hitt for the game-winning run.

Jones finished 4-of-6 with four RBIs and four runs scored to lead Hartselle back to the state tournament.

“It’s an amazing feeling, definitely a feeling you don’t get many times,” Jones added.

Gillott added two hits, three RBIs and three runs scored, while Brityan Godfrey had two hits and three RBIs. Norgard and Stiles each added two hits and two RBIs. Norgard also walked four times.

Hartselle advanced to the regional championship game with a 6-0 win over Fort Payne and an 11-0 win over Hazel Green.

The Lady Tigers (34-13-1) will open the state tournament with Wetumpka, who finished second in the South Regional.

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