It was a game the Knights needed to win, and they were facing a top level opponent. Visiting Catholic engaged defending 3A state champ Prattville Christian Academy (PCA) Thursday in what turned out to be a defensive struggle and extra inning affair. In the eighth inning starting Catholic pitcher Alanna Aiken smashed a home run to give Catholic a 2-1 victory.
“This was a huge win. I mean a big win,” Catholic coach Whitney Toole said afterwards. “This is will be a major boost to our confidence. A big win at just the right time.”
The Knights, now 7-3 on the season, gave up a run in the third inning when PCA third baseman Carolyn Carter drove home the only run for the Panthers. Hannah Parrish made the game level at 1-1 when she drove home a run in the fifth for the Knights. Aiken held the Panthers until she was relieved in the sixth inning by eventual winning pitcher Carissa Gilbert.
Paisley Wilson pitched well for PCA (4-1) and carried the Panthers into extra innings. Wilson left a pitched over the plate in the top of the eighth that Aikens cracked over the left field fence. It was Aikens second hit if the game. In addition to the win on the mound, Gilbert collected 3 hits on the day.
Sarah Williams led the PCA offense with two base hits.
It will be a rebuilding year for the Knights, a young team that lost outstanding players and leadership to graduation, mainly Aleigha Walden, now playing for William Carey College. “
“There is no doubt that we miss Aleigha, but our girls have stepped up and put forth the effort we need to be successful,” Toole said. “We have players that played at different positions and we have made adjustments, especially with Nona (Johnson) out with an injury. And, we only have one senior. I got to say that we have a pretty solid group of starters that have worked hard to elevate our game.”
The Catholic roster shows 10 of 13 to be either freshmen or sophomores.
Pitching and defense makes the difference on the diamond and Toole is very optimistic about these aspects of the game. “Alanna pitched great today. Then Carissa came in and did a great job. Good pitching always helps your confidence and we have been working on defense. I mean we have been killing it in practice when it comes to our defensive effort,” Toole said.
“And today everything came together for us. This may be the best game I’ve ever seen them play since I’ve been here.”