Championship feeling for LaGrange Academy
Published 9:45 pm Tuesday, October 22, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It was her time to shine.
LaGrange Academy’s Megan Allen is the only senior on the softball team, and when she stepped into the batter’s box on Monday afternoon during the state-championship series against Flint River Academy, she had a chance to deliver the biggest hit of the season and cap a memorable comeback in the process.
The Lady Warriors won the first game of the best-of-three series 2-0, but they found themselves trailing 6-3 heading into the seventh and final inning of game two.
LaGrange Academy came off the deck to tie it, though, and the bases were loaded with two outs when Allen’s time in the order came around.
Having watched her team fight back to tie it, Allen felt the responsibility to come through.
“It was time for me to take leadership and pull through, and do something,” Allen said.
Allen was facing a two-strike count when she got a pitch she could handle, and she drove the ball to the outfield fence for a bases-clearing double to drive in three runs.
While her teammates celebrated, Allen cruised into second base while wearing a massive grin, aware that she’d just helped push her team one step closer to a state title.
Flint River was the home team so it had one more at-bat in the bottom of the seventh, but pitcher Amber Corley tossed a perfect inning to finish it, giving LaGrange Academy a dramatic 9-6 victory that wrapped up the GISA Class A state championship.
When Corley got a groundout for the game’s final out, the celebration was on, with the players displaying a multitude of emotions as they gathered on the infield dirt.
Allen was a part of that mob scene, and she felt the championship celebration was the result of the dedication all of the players have shown over the past few months.
“We’ve been doing weight-training before August, and then we started practice in August,” Allen said. “And also in between, we’ve been doing a lot of work.”
It was the sixth state championship in the history of LaGrange Academy’s softball program, all with head coach Charles Parker at the helm.
“They’ve been working since June,” Parker said. “Somebody in the dugout made a comment that this is why we’ve been doing this since June. She’s right. This has been a good group of girls.”
In Monday’s first game, Corley was brilliant, throwing a two-hit shutout as LaGrange Academy won 2-0.
In the second game, Flint River trailed by two runs when it exploded for four runs in the fifth inning to take the lead.
LaGrange Academy was facing a 6-3 deficit in the seventh inning, and the possibility of the series needing to go to a third-and-deciding game was looking quite real.
Kelsey Cotton led off with a walk, but the next two batters were retired, so the Lady Warriors were down to their final out.
Lanie Lackey kept hope alive with a walk, and Corley followed with a base hit to score Cotton, and Flint River’s lead was down to 6-4.
Next up was McKenzie Jones, and her RBI single made it a one-run game.
Caley Worsley walked, bringing eighth-grader Madison Petite to the plate with the bases loaded and the tying run on third base.
Petite hit the ball hard on the ground to the third baseman who attempted to get the runner at the plate, but the throw went awry, allowing Corley to score the tying run.
Next up was Allen, and her at-bat started in an inauspicious manner when she missed a sign and swung at a pitch out of the strike zone.
“She misses the first signal,” Parker said, able to smile considering how the at-bat came out. “The first signal was a take, and she swings at it.
Allen had a 1-2 count when she blasted the ball over the center fielder’s head, and Parker waved all three base runners home.
Once Allen made contact and it was clear the ball wasn’t going to be caught, she knew what it meant
“As soon as I saw it flying, I knew we had the lead,” Allen said.
The Lady Warriors didn’t score any more runs in the inning, but the damage had been done.
“I had a gut feeling that we were going to make a push (in the seventh inning),” Parker said. “I didn’t know if we could beat them, but I knew we’d make a push. Really, I was hoping to get a little momentum for game three.”
Trailing 1-0, LaGrange Academy scored three runs in the top of the fourth inning.
Worsley had an RBI single in the inning, Jones knocked in a run with a fielder’s choice, and Kayla McBride scored the inning’s first run when Waddell reached on an error.
Flint River answered with four runs in the bottom of the fifth, with Caroline Cartwright doing a lot of the damage with a three-run home run that just cleared the left-field fence.
Flint River added a single run in the bottom of the sixth inning to take a 6-3 lead, setting up LaGrange Academy’s late-game rally.
McBride, Corley, Jones, Worsley and Allen each had base hits for LaGrange Academy, and Lackey walked three times and scored two runs.
Corley pitched a complete game, giving up nine hits and six runs.
In the first game, Corley was dazzling, holding Flint River to four hits while striking out four in a 2-0 victory.
LaGrange Academy scored its two runs in the third inning.
Allen led off with a walk, Cotton reached on an error, and McBride’s bunt single loaded the bases.
Flint River’s coach then made the unconventional move to intentionally walk Lackey with the bases full, knowing it would bring in a run.
Two batters later with the bases still loaded, Jones was hit by a pitch to plate another run and give LaGrange Academy a 2-0 lead.
LaGrange Academy should have an opportunity to win a repeat championship next year, with all but one player coming back.
“I’d love to come back and watch my team win another one,” Allen said.