The Meridian Star
The West Lauderdale softball team is doing its best to kill Cary Luke, and the Knight's manager is loving every second of it.
Down 7-5 to Magee in the bottom of the seventh inning West Lauderdale right fielder Ana Gilbert smashed a three-run home run over the the left-field wall to give the Knights a walk-off win in Game 1 of their 4A second-round playoff series against the Trojans.
“I got too much gray hair for this,” Luke said grinning from ear to ear. “We kept battling and battling all game. We just kept chipping away and chipping away. There were a couple of key at bats earlier in the inning, and that hit from Ana was huge.”
The Knights started the seventh with a walk by Joanna Stewart. After a Sarah Lolley pop up, Ashley Adams drew a walk to bring the winning run to the plate and set the stage for Gilbert.
With a 1-1 count, the sophomore turned on a fastball and sent it sailing into the night sky.
“There was a perfect pitch, and I just swung,” Gilbert said. “I figured it was going to hit the fence when I first hit it. When it went over, it just felt good.”
The win comes one week after the Knights rallied back to beat Purvis in the second and third games of their opening round series against the Tornadoes. After watching his team battle with its back against the wall the past few games, Luke said he has seen growth among what is a relatively young Knights squad.
“This time of year it's just survive and advance, it doesn't matter if we win by one run or 20 as long as we win. Earlier in the season we would have shut down at that point, but we are playing with a whole different attitude right now.”
West Lauderdale struck first, as Mallory Vance and Mallory Turner laced back-to-back doubles to begin the bottom of the first for the Knights. Following a wild pitch, which advanced Turner to third, Stewart grounded out to second to give the Knights a 2-0 lead.
However, Magee stormed back for six runs in the top of the sixth inning. Taylor Jordan and Cayla Myers began the inning with back-to-back solo homers as part of a seven-hit inning for the Trojans.
After giving up seven runs in the first three innings, Stewart began to settle down for the Knights in the circle, shutting out Magee the final four innings to keep West Lauderdale in the game.
Turner had a big game at the plate for the Knights, going 2-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI.
With the win, West Lauderdale will now only need to win one more game as Knights travel to Magee today at 1 p.m. If necessary, a third and deciding game will be played directly following Game 2.
“Magee had all the momentum,” Luke said. “With one swing, we took it back. All we have to do is scratch out one tomorrow, and they have to win two. That home run was huge, because they had the game won.”