Macon East Academy coach Glynn Lott had a simple message for his team just before the first pitch in the Alabama Independent School Association state softball tournament on Friday.
“I told them if anybody beats us in this tournament, it’ll be us,” Lott said. “And I think we beat ourselves today, twice, by not having key hits. We had our chances today and just didn’t take advantage of them.”
Southern rallied in its last at-bat in both games to defeat the Knights 6-5 and 10-4 to win the Class AA title. Macon East (46-18), despite the losses, continued a remarkable streak by reaching the state tournament finals for the ninth consecutive time.
“(The players) don’t realize it, but one day it will still be special to finish second, as many years as we’ve been there and done it,” Lott said. “We challenge them every year here, we tell the next class to get back to this spot. We tell them all year long, as long as the state championship has to go through us, we feel like we have a chance to win it.”
And Macon East was clearly the favorite in AA because of that streak. After beating Lowndes 10-5 and Edgewood 9-7, the Knights advanced to the finals of the winner’s bracket against Southern. The Cougars had beaten Lakeside 6-2 and Patrician 13-1.
Alyssa Clark hit a home run in the top of the seventh to give Macon East a 5-4 lead, but the Cougars rallied with two runs in the bottom of the seventh to win the game.
“We had the bases loaded three or four times and didn’t score a run,” Lott said. “We lost then. But hats off to them. They did their job. They hit the ball when they had to, put the ball in play and we didn’t make the plays.”
Hannah Parker’s two-run single in the second highlighted Macon East’s 7-3 win over Chambers in an elimination-round game, setting up a rematch with Southern in the finals. Taylor McKinney led off the game with a home run, Kylee Smith scored in the third on a Kadence Ward single and McKinney scored in the fourth on a Breann Morrison single, but the Knights’ championship hopes faded in a surreal sixth-inning collapse.
Riley Newton hit a one-out double to left, Trinity Wilkerson and Leah Beth Stewart walked to load the bases and the Cougars scored a run on Mary Katherine Jones’ high bouncer to Ward near second base. Ward tried to tag Stewart as she ran by but missed and everyone was safe. After Abbi Price struck out for the second out, Mallory Sluder, who homered in the fourth to tie the game, was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Audrey Marsh hit a grounder to third baseman Devyn Debardelaben, who bobbled the ball, then couldn’t get to third in time for the force. Anna Curtis Sealy followed with a spinning shot that fell between pitcher and catcher, then eluded pitcher Kylee Smith as it rolled back toward home plate. Augusta Arnold followed with a two-run double to center and suddenly it was 10-3.
The Knights came back with a one-out home run by Smith and singles by Georgia Blaze and Ward, but Clark popped up to third base and Parker popped up to the catcher to end the game.
“We were up and down,” Lott said. “We were that way all year. We played some really good teams (in a tournament) in Tennessee and played well up there, but we didn’t show up every day.”
Making the all-tournament team were Sluder, Wilkerson, Arnold and Stewart of Southern, McKinney, Morrison and Smith of Macon East and Chloe Mitcham and Megan Ware of Chambers.
AISA STATE SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT
Macon East Academy 10, Lowndes Academy 5
Edgewood Academy 17, South Choctaw Academy 6
Southern Academy 6, Lakeside School 2
Patrician Academy 4, Chambers Academy 3
Lowndes Academy 8, South Choctaw Academy 4
Chambers Academy 6, Lakeside School 4
Macon East Academy 9, Edgewood Academy 7
Southern Academy 13, Patrician Academy 1
Lowndes Academy 14, Patrician Academy 12
Chambers Academy 12, Edgewood Academy 6
Southern Academy 6, Macon East Academy 5
Chambers Academy 8, Lowndes Academy 7
Macon East Academy 7, Chambers Academy 3
Southern Academy 10, Macon East Academy 4