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Lady Bulldogs boast “3peat” in state championships

The BHS Lady Bulldogs have successfully taken the Class 1A State Championship title for the third year in a row.

The BHS Lady Bulldogs have successfully taken the Class 1A State Championship title for the third year in a row.

For the third year in a row, the Brantley High School Lady Bulldogs have dominated the Class 1A State Championship Softball Tournament.

Now relishing in their “3peat,” the Lady Bulldogs are ready to take a break and reflect on all they’ve accomplished over this successful season.

“This is like a storybook season. This team’s been through a lot of adversity this year,” said BHS head softball coach Cindy Hawthorne.

“We had Alex who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer on Dec. 25. Anytime you’re as close as we are to each other and you see your team member going through what she had to go through, it takes a toll.”

In round one, the Lady Bulldogs faced off against South Lamar and took home a 10-0 victory.

The Lady Bulldogs scored eight runs in the fourth to break open a 0-0 game. Olivia Jones opened the scoring with a three-run double to center field. Hannah Sims followed with another double, knocking in Jones.

Lainey Wells drove in two runs with a line drive to center. Jones added a triple in the bottom of the fifth to help lead Brantley to two more runs.

Leanna Johnson struck out 10 batters in five innings, giving up only two hits in the complete game shutout.

In the second round, the Lady Bulldogs challenged Spring Garden and once again walked away with a 10-0 victory.

Brantley continued to be hot at the plate, scoring five runs in the second. Gracie Free drove in a run with a double and Alex Wilcox capped off the scoring with a double to center field.

Anna Kimbro got the Lady Bulldogs going in the third with a double to center. Emory Bush scored a couple of runners with a well-placed bunt.

In the fourth, Kassidy and Alex Wilcox lead off with a double each helping to push a couple more runs across. Jones capped off the scoring in the sixth, scoring Kassidy Wilcox with a hard single to right field.

The Wilcox girls both lead the Bulldogs with three hits each while Johnson continued her dominance in the pitching circle with 12 strikeouts in her second complete game shutout of the day.

The final day of the 2016 softball season was an eventful one for Lady Bulldogs. Brantley opened play at 9 a.m. against Billingsley. It was a hard fought affair that ended in a 1-0 loss for the Bulldogs; this loss marked the first time the Brantley girls have lost a game in the state tournament.

“That was the only run we had given up thus far in the whole tournament. It was definitely time to regroup and go get them the next time,” Hawthorne said.

“From there, it was just a team effort. We just got refocused and did what we had to do to win those next two games and solidify it.”

Johnson pitched a great game striking out 10 and giving up only one run.  Kassidy Wilcox led the Bulldogs at the dish with three hits, including three doubles, but their efforts were not enough.

The loss sent the Bulldogs into the loser’s bracket facing elimination and needing to win three in a row for a chance to hoist the State Championship trophy for the third consecutive year.

Next up for the girls was a second game against Spring Garden. Johnson threw her fourth complete game and third shutout of the tournament to lead the Bulldogs in the circle.

Kassidy Wilcox continued her torrid pace with three more hits.  Alex Wilcox’s bat came alive as she added three hits as well that included a homerun and five runs batted in.

Jones also had a very productive game at dish with three hits and three runs batted in. When the dust settled on the game, Brantley claimed a 10-0 run rule win.

The Lady Bulldogs found themselves facing an uphill battle once again against Billingsley in the championship and still needing to win two in a row.  The task proved not too difficult for a gritty Brantley team that pushed across nine runs and allowed only two over the course of the next two games. Brantley claimed a 4-1 victory in game 1.

Still needing to win one more to be able to claim the “3peat”, the Bulldogs won 5-1. Johnson won her fourth and fifth games of the State Tournament giving up only two runs. Kassidy Wilcox added two homeruns to her already impressive resume to lead the Bulldogs at the plate.

“It was completely and totally a team effort,” Hawthorn said.

“It’s just rewarding to see those kids, they do everything we ask them to do from summer workouts to practices. They show up and they do what we ask them to do, and we demand a lot from our players. But to see them go through all of that and come up at the end, it’s a coach’s dream.”

Alex Wilcox’s contributions in centerfield proved just as important as she made numerous run saving catches in centerfield.  The Brantley Bulldog softball team ended the season with an impressive 39-10 record and a third consecutive AHSAA 1A State Championship.

Several Brantley girls were recognized for their outstanding play in the tournament. Jones was named to the all tournament team with nine hits, two doubles and six runs driven in.

Kassidy Wilcox was also named to the team with 14 hits, five doubles, two triples and two homeruns.

Johnson was named to the team for her pitching performance, throwing six complete games, winning five and throwing three shutouts allowing only three runs. Johnson struck out an impressive 53 walking only nine over 38 innings.

Last, but certainly not least, Alex Wilcox was named the tournament MVP for her sterling play not just at the plate but in centerfield as well. Alex Wilcox hit two homeruns and drove in a team leading 11 runs over the six-game tournament.

“It was a wild ride, especially with everything with Alex. We would give all that back for her to be okay, but we were fortunate enough that we got the best of both worlds,” Hawthorne said.

“We just thank God for that, because He has certainly blessed us to be able to do what we did. We definitely give him the praise for all of that. Now, we just go back to work and get ready for the next season. We’ll regroup and go again.”