ECHS pulls off upset

Published 4:39 pm Saturday, April 7, 2012

Escambia County Lady Blue Devils third baseman Taylor Hill throws out a runner in the Lady Blue Devils’ match up against the Monroe County Lady Tigers on March 5. The Lady Blue Devils upset the Saraland Lady Spartans Tuesday in Saraland.

Escambia County holds the key to its own destiny after an upset victory over the Saraland Lady Spartans Tuesday.

The Lady Blue Devils (12-4, 3-2) sit tied for second-place in Class 4A Area 1 after beating Saraland 8-6, with a chance to create a three-way tie for first place next week against UMS-Wright.

Tuesday’s contest could have gone either way with the game knotted up at 6 moving to the final inning.

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Two big hits from Y-netta Craft (2-for-4, RBI, 2B) and Ashleigh Simpkins (1-for-3, RBI) combined with some key walks put the game in the Lady Blue Devils’ favor in the top of the seventh inning. Craft reached base on a single and was knocked in by Simpkins’ single to put ECHS ahead 7-6, and a fielder’s choice by Lexi Daughtry (1-for-2, RBI) scored Sierra Smith (2-for-3, 2B, R), who had been walked in the previous at-bat.

Leading 8-6, with pitcher Kaylee Cox in the pitcher’s circle, the Lady Blue Devils completed their upset putting down the Lady Spartans’ batters without any problems. Cox finished the game pitching all seven innings to earn the win allowing six runs, while striking out six batters.

The mix of strong defense and powerful offense proved to be the key to the victory, Lady Blue Devils Head Softball Coach Darryl Otwell said.

“Kaylee (Cox) was dominant on the mound,” he said. “She’s just competing and making our opponents hit the ball, which puts it in play for our strong defense. We are making every routine play and our bats have turned on, so it all came together for that win.”

Escambia County seemed to be prepared for the clash with Tristen Boothe (2-for-4, R) opening the game with a double that was followed by an RBI-single by Jasmine Ireland (3-for-4, RBI) to give the Lady Blue Devils a 1-0 lead to open the game.

Saraland bounced back with two runs in the bottom of the first, but ECHS again tied the game in the top of the third with Cox (0-for-3, R) crossing the plate.

Things began to swing in the favor of ECHS in the top of the fourth with Smith scoring her first run to put ECHS ahead 3-2 before Saraland again tied the game in the bottom of the inning.

In the top of the fifth, Taylor Hil (1-for-2, 2B, R), Craft and Simpkins all scored runs to put ECHS out in front 6-3, but Saraland clawed back into it in the next two innings to get the scored tied at 6.

The Lady Blue Devils would not be denied though, as they finished off what they started with Craft and Smith giving ECHS the final lead change of the contest.

Earning the win over Saraland gave Otwell and his team something to hang their hats on, he said.

“It was a great win for us,” he said. “Our team worked hard, and it’s great to finally get  a quality area win. They had opportunities to win the game, but we hung on to come out on top in a great overall game.”

With the win, the Lady Blue Devils have the opportunity to create a mess of their area standings next Thursday.

The UMS-Wright Lady Bulldogs are scheduled to come to Atmore, and a win could force a tiebreaker heading to the area tournament.

A chance to earn the top seed in the area is something the Lady Blue Devils are excited to have, Otwell said.

“We are tied for second with a huge game against UMS-Wright next week,” he said. “That game will determine where we get seeded in the area tournament. We have some tough games before that, but having a shot to hold our own destiny before the area tournament is a great thing. That game will be a great opportunity for us to get a No. 1 seed in the tournament.”

The Lady Blue Devils next home game will be at 4:30 p.m. Thursday against the UMS-Wright Lady Bulldogs at Tom Byrne Park.