Brantley falls in final game

Published 2:39 pm Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Brantley Lady Bulldogs fell short this year in the quest for the 1A state championship.The teams previously held the title for the past three years. Journal Photo/Cindy Jordan

By: Grace Grosenbach

The Brantley Bulldog Softball Team traveled to the AHSAA State Softball Tournament in hopes to return with a “4-peat”, but came home a little short, finishing as the 1A State Runner-Up.

Going into the tournament, junior pitcher Leanna Johnson says that it was evident something was missing after senior Alex Wilcox had a surgery that ended her high school career. “The entire season was a tough one because we knew we would lose one of our best players and leaders, Alex,” Johnson said. “But, we knew who we were playing for.”

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The Bulldogs started the tournament against Waterloo, with freshman Anna Kimbro taking the lead on offense with two back-to-back home runs. Kimbro says that nothing compares to the feeling of hitting one over. “I didn’t really know that they were over the fence until I saw my teammates gathering at home plate. It definitely made me feel good,” she said.

Leanna Johnson kicked off the tournament for the Bulldog defense by throwing a no hitter. Brantley swept Waterloo 14-0 in the first game.

Later Thursday night, Brantley faced the Spring Garden Panthers, and defeated their opponent 13-0. Leanna Johnson kept her stride in the circle, as she threw another no-hitter for the Bulldogs. Sophomore Kassidy Wilcox sent in four out of 13 runs scored by Brantley with her grand slam.

Friday morning games started off with Brantley facing the Pleasant Home Lady Eagles. Even though Brantley had won against Pleasant Home in the regular season, nothing stopped the Bulldogs from playing to the best of their ability. Junior Leanna Johnson led her teammates on both defense and offense. Johnson had two hits, one being a homerun and the other being a ground-rule double. On defense, Johnson threw her third no-hitter of the tournament as the final score was 12-0.

Kimbro says that Wilcox gave them special motivation going into their final game Friday night. “Before the championship game, she gave us a speech that got us a little emotional, but definitely got us ready to play,” Kimbro said. Because the Bulldogs had defeated all of their opponents so far in the tournament, they played for the championship title against the Sumiton Christian Eagles.

The first game was a low-scoring one for Brantley, with a final score of 9-3 and Sumiton Christian taking the first win. One of those runs was from Johnson, as she hit her second homerun of the tournament in the championship game. Kimbro also says that while she was confident her team played well, she also believes they always have room for improvement. “I thought we played really good, but unfortunately we came up a little short,” Kimbro said. “They had great hitters that hardly missed a ball and their defense was solid.”

The pressure was on for the girls in the second game against Sumiton Christian, knowing that this game held the championship. It was a back-and-forth between who had the lead for the duration of the game. In the top of the fifth inning, the Bulldogs hustled on offense to change a 6-2 lead for Sumiton Christian into an 8-6 lead over the Eagles. Despite true perseverance, Sumiton Christian had three runs in the seventh inning to win the championship.

Anna Kimbro says that the hardest thing about losing a game like that is all of the regrets and what-ifs that follow. “You know, you always have regrets about what you could or couldn’t have done to make the game have a different outcome. Like if I didn’t strike out with two runners on base or if I could have jumped a little higher to catch a ball that they hit over,” Kimbro said. “I’m just looking forward to getting out there again and hopefully making it back to the same spot we were in this year, just leaving with different results.”

It was a tough loss for Brantley, and while they still finished as the State Runner-Up, it did not compare to the feeling of a “blue map.” Johnson says that while there is a lot to take away from this season, the girls are ready for next season. “We’re ready to dominate again next year,” she said.

Brantley softball finished with a record of 50-5.