“It’s disappointing to be going home, but I can’t say enough about how my girls responded after that first game,” head coach Chris Sherbert said. “In the first game, we played the No. 2 team in the state, and then we just got off the field with the team that finished No. 2 last year. We competed in both games. Even though the first game ended up being 10-0, we still competed.”
Despite coming up empty-handed, Sherbert felt like the team still took a step forward this season and knows the bar will be raised even higher next season.
“We’ve just got to build on this and learn,” Sherbert said. “I’ve got two seniors. Like I told them, the good news is: great job, I love you, and I’m proud of you. The bad news is: the bar goes higher. Before the day started, I told the girls no matter what happens on this field today we move forward. Even after that, they took two steps forward today. I’m proud of them.”
In the game against Pleasant Home, the Lady Eagles jumped out to 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. They added another run in the top of the third inning.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, with Pleasant Home turning to eighth grade relief pitcher Katherine Walker, Hailey Haynes led off with a double to right-center field. Haynes advanced to third base on a failed pickoff attempt. Lauren Guy hit a grounder to the left side of the infield, Haynes tried to score from third base. On a close play at the plate, she was called out.
Fayetteville eventually put a run on the board in the bottom of the fifth when Courtney Deloach scored from third base on a failed pickoff attempt.
Pinch runner Savannah Scott was caught in a rundown at third base later in the inning. Sherbert shared blame for the out.
“In hindsight, I should have held her up right there at third, because I would have had my number four hitter [Haynes] coming up,” he said.
Pleasant Home added an insurance run in the top of the seventh by way of a throwing error to third base that allowed the runner at third base to score a run.
Deloach got on base again in the seventh inning but with two outs, the third pitcher of the game for Pleasant Home, eighth grader Taylor McGhee, got catcher Peyton Dennis to strike out for the final out of the game.
Brittany Snyder had a particularly strong defensive game by converting 12 total putouts after making some errors in the first game against Parrish.
“She made a ton of plays,” Sherbert said. “She got so frustrated that she couldn’t even do pitch and catch. I said ‘Look, you know what you can do, now do it,’ and she made every play that was hit to her.”
Sherbert also credited Haydn Hughes for her pitching performance, along with his two seniors, Summer Guy and Katelyn Bierley. He noted Bierley showed leadership by changing positions between games and compared Guy with Snyder in having a bounce-back defensive performance against Pleasant Home.
Rather than use his team’s youth as an excuse, Sherbert pointed out this was a return visit.
“We’re not young,” he said. “A lot of these sophomores, they’ve been playing two years. I told them ‘You’re not young anymore. That’s an excuse—we’re veterans.’ We had a veteran team this year and at times, we did not play like a veteran team and I was disappointed. At times, we did play like a veteran team, but I would say more times we didn’t than we did. But we turned it on when it counted. We got to Regionals and we turned it on.”
In the game against Parrish, the Lady Wolves ran up against senior pitcher Grayson Culverson, who threw a perfect game in six innings and struck out eight Fayetteville batters. Culverson went on to throw her second shutout of the day in a win against Decatur Heritage.
Despite running up against strong pitching, the story of the game was errors committed by the Fayetteville defense. According to official AHSAA statistics, the Lady Wolves committed eight errors in the game.
It was a close game through three innings, with Parrish scoring three runs off of errors.
Parrish gained a decisive 6-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning with three more runs, one of which came off of an error.
Parrish added two runs off of errors in the bottom of the fifth inning. In the sixth inning, Jamie Hocutt hit a single to left field and an error allowed a run to score on the play. Makenzie Morgan hit a single through the gap between shortstop and third base to drive in the 10th and deciding run.
One of the bright spots in the game for Fayetteville was Hailey Haynes, who made five defensive putouts without committing an error.
“I can’t say enough about Hailey Haynes, how she has stepped up this week,” Sherbert said. “She struggled the first half of the year hitting the ball. She’s usually a great hitter and a solid defender and she’s had her struggles. But since the Ragland tournament, she’s been tearing the cover off the ball and I can’t say enough about what she’s done on the offensive side, as well as the defensive side.”
Looking ahead to next season, Sherbert believes the key to taking a step forward starts with greater consistency.
“We’re a veteran team and I expect us to play more consistently next year,” he said. “That’s our goal: we’re going to preach consistency from start to finish. We weren’t very consistent this year. We’ve got to be more consistent. If we are, then we’ll come down here and really put the fear in some folks down here. They know who we are; they’re not going to hide from us, they’re not scared of us, but they know Fayetteville’s here and we’re here to stay.”