Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 7, 2002

Troy Belles rip through Elba 22-7 to win title


Sports Editor

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Standing awash in a Gatorade victory bath on Friday night at the Sportsplex, Troy Dixie Belles’ head coach Robin Sullivan knew his team would face stiffer competition in Enterprise for districts.

Still, the 22-7 sub-district title win over Elba was a sweet one to savor for a hastily put together team – one that barely had a month of league play under their collective belts.

"I thought we did real well," said Sullivan about Troy’s five-game tear through the sub-district tournament. "I’m real proud of these girls. They have been a great bunch. The last time I had a team that wanted to win this much was when we went to state with slow pitch. And I’ve had some great teams (since), but this team is just sticking together in everything. I’ve had no discipline problems at all. I’m very proud of them and their parents."

Troy made it look easy, averaging over 14 runs per outing and appearing to get stronger as the tournament progressed. Troy roughed up Opp 23-8 in Wednesday night’s semifinal game. Their closest contest was a 9-4 decision against Elba earlier in the week, but the Troy girls didn’t allow the visitors from Coffee County to hang around long enough for seven innings on Friday.

Troy finished it off in five, just like they had in their 23-8 rematch with Opp, as Mandy Sullivan crossed home plate to end the game on a Whitney Johnson basehit.

"The other night against Opp we had about 25 hits and we must have had about 25 tonight," said Sullivan.

Sullivan paused following that thought.

He saw the Gatorade coming.

"They’re fixing to wet me," he said.

Troy soaked Elba well enough on Friday, scoring five runs in the first and plating 10 runners in the second inning alone. Troy received two hits, one each from Ashley Simmons and Eden Harris, two walks from pitcher Melanie Murlaz and two errors from the Elba infield to open with the five runs. Megan Johnson had a sacrifice RBI as well in the inning.

The second would get even worse for Elba.

Three errors on hits by Harris, Johnson and Tiffany Brooks sent home Simmons. Heather Snell and Amanda Hayes scored two runners with RBI singles and Harris capped it all off with a two RBI single.

"We didn’t see as strong of pitching as we’re going to see in Enterprise," said Sullivan. The Belles had little time to celebrate their sub-district championship with districts set to start on Saturday. "That might tell on us there. But if we’ll hit the ball like we’ve been hitting then we’ll go a long ways. Maybe these young ladies will get a chance to go to the World Series."

Troy lacked scoring in the third but did get a single courtesy of Hayes. Simmons led-off the fourth with a basehit, Harris followed with a double RBI and Sullivan reached on error, one of eight total on the night for Elba.

Johnson and Snell both capitalized for Troy with one-run doubles.

The top of the order came through again for Troy in the fifth and, what proved to be, the final inning.

With one out, Simmons singled and once again Harris doubled her teammate in. Johnson ended the game with a one-run single.

Simmons had three singles to lead off the batting order for Troy. Harris had two doubles, two singles and four RBIs. Mary Katherine Green had a basehit and Johnson drove home two runs with a double and single. Snell had two hits and two RBIs.

Johnson was Troy’s winning pitcher, working three innings for the host team. She allowed a triple by Elba’s Summer Stricklin in the third before being relieved by Heather West in the fourth. West gave up one hit also.

Elba scored four runs in the third as Troy committed two errors and Johnson hit two batters with pitches.