By Lori Cathey
The Gibson County Lady Pioneers softball team beat Halls 9-6 to capture the first region crown in program history and defeated Hillcrest 17-0 to advance to the TSSAA Spring Fling for the second consecutive year.
Region 7-A Tournament
Gibson Co. 3, Bradford 2
In the region semifinals, Macey Neal led off the bottom of the first inning with a single to left field and stole second base. Zoey Neal grounded out, moving Macey Neal to third base. Neal scored on a pass ball to give Gibson Co. a 1-0 lead.
With one out in the bottom of the third, Brittney Kolwyck walked, Macey Neal hit into a fielder’s choice for the second out. Macey Neal stole second base and scored on a single to centerfield by Zoey Neal to put the Lady Pioneers on top 2-0.
The Lady Red Devils got on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth inning. Jenna Cash singled to centerfield, and Brianna Mathis laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Cash to second base. Libby Sharp reached on an error to score Cash to make it 2-1 Gibson Co.
In the bottom of the fifth, Macey Neal tripled to right field with two outs and scored on a wild pitch to give Gibson Co. a 3-1 lead.
In the top of the seventh inning with two outs, the Lady Red Devils fought back with Annalee Bratton hitting a triple to right field followed by Blair Mercer’s double to centerfield that plated Bratton to make it 3-2.
Lexie Garner was credited with the win as she pitched a complete game, struck out three batters, gave up one earned run, seven hits and no walks. Macey Neal led the offense, going 2-3 with a triple, and Zoey Neal was 1-3 with a RBI.
Gibson Co. 9, Halls 6
In the region championship game, the Lady Pioneers got on the scoreboard first in the bottom of the first inning. Zoey Neal was hit by a pitch, and Chloe Hopgood laid down a perfect bunt to move Neal to second base with two outs. Senior Savannah Fletcher singled up the middle, scoring Neal to give Gibson Co. a 1-0 lead.
Halls tied the game in the second inning and took a 2-1 lead in the third. Halls added another run in the top of the fourth, going up 3-1.
The Lady Pioneers’ bats came alive in the bottom of the fourth inning. Lexie Garner led off with a single up the middle and was replaced by pinch runner Briana Bates. Jaci White doubled, and Emery Presley hit a two-run single to tie the game at 3-3. Molly Lamar was hit by a pitch, and Brittney Kolwyck reached on an error to load the bases with no outs. Macie Tucker came in to pinch run for Presley and scored on a fielder’s choice by Macey Neal. Zoey Neal hit into a RBI ground out. Hopgood reached on a hard hit ball for an error, scoring Neal for a 6-3 Gibson Co. lead. The Lady Pioneers added a run in the fifth inning off three consecutive singles by Presley, Lamar and Kolwyck to make it 7-3.
The Lady Tigers put together a three-run rally in the top of the sixth inning to trim the Lady Pioneers’ lead to 7-6.
Zoey Neal started the bottom of the sixth inning off reaching on an error and stole second base. Hopgood was hit by a pitch and was replaced by courtesy runner Taina Turner. Neal and Turner both advanced to the next base on a passed ball. Fletcher hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Neal and moving Turner to third base. Garner hit a single up the middle to score Turner and give Gibson Co. a 9-6 lead.
Chloe Hopgood was the winning pitcher. She pitched a complete game, allowing eight hits, six walks and struck out one. Jaci White led the Lady Pioneers, going 2-3 with a double and RBI. Emery Presley was 2-3 with two RBI; Lexie Garner, 2-4 with a RBI; Savannah Fletcher, 1-3 with a RBI; Brittney Kolwyck, 1-2 with a RBI’ and Molly Lamar, 1-2.
Gibson Co. 17, Hillcrest 0
The Lady Pioneers made school history by hosting the first substate softball game Saturday night in front of a large crowd.
The Lady Pioneers scored 16 runs in the bottom of the first inning. Macey Neal led the game off with a single to right field. Zoey Neal and Chloe Hopgood both walked to load the bases. Savannah Fletcher hit a two-run double down the third base line to make it 2-0. The Lady Pioneers batted around in the inning, scoring five runs. Macey Neal and Zoey Neal, batting for the second time in the inning, both singled, and Hopgood hit a two-run double to left field. Fletcher singled, and Brittney Kolwyck followed with a single to centerfield, giving GCHS a 16-0 lead.
Macy Ruth Chandler singled up the middle to start the bottom of the second inning. With one out, Abi Caton singled and Janiya Williams walked. Taina Turner hit a single to right field to score Chandler for the 17-0 win.
Lexie Garner was the winning pitcher, with Callie Emerson pitching in relief. The Lady Pioneers were led by Chloe Hopgood, 1-1 with a double and two RBI; Macey Neal, 2-2 a RBI; Savannah Fletcher, 1-2 with three RBI; Brittney Kolwyck, 1-1 with two RBI; Zoey Neal, 1-2 with a RBI; Taina Turner, 1-1 with a RBI; Macy Ruth Chandler, 1-1; and Abi Caton 1-1.
Lady Pioneer coach Chris Lownsdale said, “For a coach to be able to say they are going back to the state tournament is about as exciting as it can get. This group of girls has pushed through numerous injuries, bad weather, and tough games throughout this entire season to earn the opportunity to go back to Murfreesboro for a second time. Thank you to everyone who supported them in the district and regional tournaments and the sectional game.”
The Lady Pioneers will face Sale Creek Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the opening round of the TSSAA Class A State Championship in Murfreesboro. The format is double elimination.