CENTRE – Shortly after Friday night’s nine-inning battle with Spring Garden, Cherokee County High School softball coach Brad Weaver said senior pitcher Alana Loyd came to him and said she wanted the ball in the county softball championship game against Sand Rock on Saturday.
“At that moment, I knew Alana was going to be our girl,” Weaver said. “We had backups just in case, but she pitched a heck of a game today by shutting out a really good Sand Rock team. She went nine innings (Friday) night and turned around and went seven for us today.”
As Weaver said, Loyd scattered four hits, struck out 10 batters, and didn’t allow a walk or a run in the Lady Warriors’ 3-0 victory.
“I just knew I had to hit my spots and not let up, even though I was tired,” Loyd said. “My team needed me to pitch for them. It wasn’t just for me.”
The win secured the Lady Warriors’ first county softball championship since 2014.
“It feels great,” Loyd said. “It’s my senior year and this is our first time winning it. Even when we went to state when I was a freshman, we got put out in county, so it feels pretty good to be county champs.”
Weaver said his pregame message to the Lady Warriors before Saturday’s championship game was to score runs early against Sand Rock. They pushed single runs across in the top of the first and second innings on RBI-singles by Abby Lea and McKinley Rouss respectively against Lady Wildcat starter EllaGrace Hood.
Cherokee County pushed across an insurance run against Lady Wildcat reliever Jadyn Foster in the fifth for the final.
But Sand Rock made Loyd and the Lady Warriors sweat it out in the bottom of the sixth.
Leadoff batter Katelyn St. Clair doubled to left, then Foster popped out to Loyd. St. Clair was also called out at third trying to advance for the second out of the inning.
Hood then sent a shot to right center field that dropped when outfielders Karlee Perry and Carson Coley collided. Hood raced to second on the play, but then Loyd retired the side when Maggie Tinsley struck out.
Loyd then struck out the Sand Rock side in the seventh for the final.
“She does really well with adversity,” Weaver said of Loyd. “She’s played enough ball to know she’s going to give up some hits. She knows some people are going to hit it hard. If somebody hits a home run, she’ll come back with a strikeout. She lives one batter at a time, and that’s all I can ask of her.”
“I knew as long as I hit my spots, whether they put it in play or not, our defense has been doing really good,” Loyd said. “I had a lot of weight lifted off my shoulders just knowing if they hit the ball my defense could get the outs.”
St. Clair, Hood, Sammi Parker and Maggie Hester had the Lady Wildcat hits. St. Clair’s hit was a double.
Anna Walker had a pair of hits for the Lady Warriors. Lea walked twice and had a hit. Loyd and Rouss both had a hit and a walk apiece. Coley had a bunt single and was hit by a pitch.
“These girls right here deserve it,” Weaver said. “Sand Rock’s a heck of a team, but these girls right here have worked their tails off for me the past three years. This is what one of our goals is. We knew we had a chance. The girls overcame adversity to get here. We struggled a little bit coming into this tournament with our sticks, but we found just enough to win it. I’m so proud of the girls. I can’t say it enough.”