Bayou bound

Published 8:18 pm Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Troy claims its trophy as the champions of Alabama. (Photo/Ryan McCollough)

Troy claims its trophy as the champions of Alabama. (Photo/Ryan McCollough)

Troy Belles advance to Dixie World Series with 10 inning thriller over Sweet Water

Troy Belles head coach Larry Sanders ran the gauntlet of emotions Wednesday.

Sanders began the day with anxious knowing his team needed a win to advance to the Dixie World Series. During the game, he became frustrated as Troy squandered multiple opportunities to score. As Abby Taylor crossed home in the bottom of the 10th inning to give Troy a slim 1-0 win, he threw his hands in the air and jumped for joy. But when his team was presented the championship trophy, Sanders nearly broke out in tears.

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“The girls have worked really hard,” Sander said after all the trophy festivities concluded. “We won the state last year with six of these girls. They have just worked really hard, and if you didn’t like that game, then you don’t like softball.”

After squandering a couple of prime scoring opportunities earlier the game, Troy was finally able to get the winning run across in the bottom of the 10th inning.

Taylor blooped a single over the head of Sweet Water second baseman Lara Little to lead off the 10th. Taylor later advanced to second on a wild pitch.

With Taylor standing at second and Molly Kate Sanders, who walked, at first, Hannah Calhoun took her place in the box.

Calhoun squared to bunt on a 1-1 count, and dropped a perfect bunt in front of the plate. Kora Myers, Sweet Water’s third baseman, fielded the ball and fired to first. However, Myers throw sailed wide of the mark enabling Taylor to score all the way from second and bring an end to the marathon title game.

“The girls just got the job done there,” Sanders said. “Abby Taylor got a big hit and Molly Kate walked and Hannah Calhoun put down one of the best bunts you will ever see,” Sanders said. “I hate to win a ball game like that, but in a close game, I’ll take a win any way you can get it.”

The 10th inning rally ended the game, but if a couple of bounces had gone a different way earlier, the game would have ended in regulation with a variety of outcomes.

In the eighth inning, Troy put two runners in scoring position with no outs. However, the runners were left stranded with a strikeout and two infield pop-ups.

Troy left two runners on in the fourth inning as well.

Sweet Water missed a prime opportunity to score in the seventh innings as well.

With runners on first and second, Sweet Water’s Thea Luker sent a hard ground ball down the line to Troy third baseman Sidney Armstrong. Armstrong’s throw missed the target and trickled up the fence in to right field, presumably allowing Sweet Water to take the lead.

However, the home plate umpire ruled the ball foul, sending all the runners back to their original base.

Luker popped out on the next pitch.

“Softball is a game of inches,” Sanders said. “Our inch was outside and theirs was a thrown-away ball. That’s just the way it is sometimes.”

The two teams combined for just 10 hits, with five different Troy batters getting one base knock.

Calhoun, Armstrong, Kelsey Gibson, Kate Warrick and Taylor each finished with one hit.

With the win, Troy advances to the Dixie Belles World Series in Ponchatoula, La.

Sanders, along with six players, represented the state of Alabama at the 2013 Dixie Ponytails World Series a year ago.

The World Series, a double-elimination tournament gets underway August 3. 2014 is the first time Ponchatoula has hosted.