Franklinton captures playoff thriller

Published 1:42 pm Friday, April 20, 2018

Franklinton and Pearl River went down to the wire Tuesday and the Lady Demons scored the winning run on a wild pitch for an 8-7 victory in a bi-district Class 4A playoff game those in attendance won’t soon forget.
The Lady Demons trailed 7-6 as the game moved to the bottom of the seventh. The task was easy to understand, but getting done is always the tough part. Score one run, play extra innings. Tally two runs, advance to the regional round.
Ashlyn Welch began the frame singling to centerfield. After the first out, Aleigha Fussell grounded out to the pitcher, but Welch moved to second and was carrying the tying run. Welch went to third on a wild pitch on that made it 1-0 to Ashlyn Ard. After that, Ard was intentionally walked. Brylie Fowler came up with runners on the corners, but Ard swiped second on the first pitch to her. That proved to be big. Fowler hit an infield single that plated Welch, tying the game at 7-7. Ard moved to third on the play. Bailey Brooks was next and during her at bat, Pearl River threw a wild pitch and Ard raced home from third and slid in safely into the plate and it was celebration time for the Lady Demons in a hard-fought, 8-7, victory.
This was Franklinton’s first softball home playoff game since joining Class 4A and the program’s first ever playoff win.
Franklinton (14-10) will play its next playoff game on the road against top-seeded Morgan City (22-4). Morgan City defeated Edna Karr, 15-0, in three innings.
Tuesday’s game was about two evenly matched teams that were seeing each other for the third time this season and had split the previous two games with 17th-seeded Pearl River winning the first one, 12-4, and the 16th-seeded Lady Demons taking the second 2-1.
This contest featured several ties and lead changes in a contest that was exciting from the first pitch to the last.
Franklinton scored the game’s first two runs before Pearl River scored five straight. Franklinton tied things at 5-5. Then Pearl River went up 6-5, but the Lady Demons tied the game at 6-6. Pearl River took a 7-6 lead, but the Lady Demons tallied twice in their final at bat to win it.
“This game was crazy and we put in so much work this season for this moment and it was all worth it, but I can’t really say anything other than all the glory to God,” Ard said. “I mean, this is so amazing, and my team, I have the best team in the world and they did it. They did it.”
Franklinton scored single runs in the first and third innings.
Ard began the bottom of the first with the first of her three hits by singling before stealing second and moving to third on a passed ball. Ard scored her first of four runs when Bailey Spears reached on an error to make it 1-0.
Franklinton made it 2-0 in the third. Fowler walked and later scored on an RBI groundout by Spears.
Pearl River trimmed the lead to 2-1 in the fourth. Melenia Neyer got hit. Cambie Calabresi singled to left, but a bobble allowed Neyer to head to third and she scored on Julee Gille’s RBI single to make it 2-1.
The scoring picked up in the fifth when the Lady Rebels posted four runs in the frame.
Jessee Gille walked and moved to second on Erica Delaune’s sacrifice bunt. Alexis Wadsworth reached on an error. Gille scored to make it 2-2. Brianna Alligood then doubled to right centerfield, sending Wadsworth home with the go-ahead run. Neyer hit an RBI single to left that plated Alligood to make it 4-2. Calabresi reached on an error and Neyer tallied and Pearl River had a 5-2 lead through 4.5 innings.
But this one was far from over.
Franklinton countered with three in the bottom of the frame. Ard began the rally with a single and moved to third on a 2-base error in the outfield. Fowler put down a successful safety squeeze to plate Ard and the lead was down to two. Brooks restarted the rally with a single that Keirsten Allen followed up with a walk and Spears reached on an error to load the bases. Missouri Varnado reached on an RBI fielder’s choice that plated Brooks and a dropped throw sent Allen home to tie the game at 5-5.
Pearl River went back in front, 6-5, in the sixth.
Victoria Stewart singled, went to second on a Jessee Gille’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Delaune’s RBI single.
Franklinton tied the game quickly in the bottom of the inning with one swing of the bat.
Ard led off and launched a pitch to deep left field and over the fence, a no doubter, for a game-tying home run
“When it was off the bat, I knew it was gone,” Ard said. “It’s crazy. It happened when we needed it to and it’s great.”
Franklinton coach Leslie McGhee said they moved Ard to leadoff about halfway through the season because she’s such a leader. McGhee said she told Ard leading up the at bat when she homered that the team is going to follow her, so what ever she does right here, they are following her.
“Then they got the run in the sixth inning and then she comes out right here, they put her on and she ends up scoring the run,” McGhee said. “She’s leader, aggressive and a motivator.”
Pearl River went back in front in the seventh, 7-6.
Neyer was hit and later scored on Stewart’s RBI single.
Franklinton tallied twice in the seventh for the victory
“It’s the determination and fight these kids have had all season. That’s what did it right here. That’s what won the game. It’s the fight that had and the picking the team up. My outfielders, they struggled and they came in and infielders were like, ‘hey, it’s ok; we’ve got your back. We’re going to get an out.’ The determination and fight and to finish the game. It’s the same way when we went over and played them in district. It’s the same way, back-and-forth, back-and-forth.”
Ard went 3-for-3 with a homer and four runs scored. Brooks and Welch posted two hits and a run. Fowler and Allen had a hit and a run scored each. Fussell had a hit. Spears and Varnado recorded an RBI each.
Pearl River’s Jessee Gille walked and tallied a run. Julee Gille posted two hits and an RBI. Stewart recorded two hits and two runs scored. Delaune had a hit. Wadsworth scored a run. Alligood doubled, drove in a run and tallied a run. Neyer doubled and scored three runs. Calabresi posted a hit.