Fort Payne put the pressure on the Class 3A, No. 8 Plainview Lady Bears early Tuesday night.
The Lady ‘Cats led 10-3 through three innings, and Fort Payne was able to put another across in the top of the sixth inning for an 11-3 advantage.
But, Plainview fought back. The Lady Bears had a six-run sixth inning, which pulled them within three of the 6A Lady Wildcats at 11-9.
Lacee Kirk led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a walk, but Fort Payne’s Bailey Stephens put away Ali Clark with a fly out to center.
Plainview’s Crimson Wells singled to put two runners on base, but it looked like Stephens had stymied a Lady Bear rally after another fly ball out.
The ‘Cats were one away from cleaning up the sixth-inning mess and securing the victory.
Stephens just had to get junior Anabelle Brown out at the plate.
That’s easier said than done.
Head coach Jeff Brooks called time before the first pitch to talk to his batter.
“His exact words were that I was crushing the ball earlier in the day and to just keep doing what I was doing,” Brown said.
Brown said Stephens had pitched her low and outside all day. She knew what to expect.
“She threw me an outside fastball,” Brown said. “Honestly, my (comfort) zone is inside, but earlier in the day that was what she had been throwing me, and I had seen that pitch before.”
Brown dug her cleats in at the plate and turned on Stephens’ fastball. She sent the pitch 220 feet to left center.
The walk-off home run made the score 12-11, and Plainview increased its record to 12-2 overall.
Brooks said there was no special pep talk he gave the players before those big innings. He told them to stay focused and not worry about the scoreboard.
“You have to stay focused and battle back one inning at a time, try to win and hope everything pans out,” Brooks said. “We were able to get some base runners on and some hits.
“We knew we had a few big innings and situations like that before. But we were just lucky.”
Brooke Ingram had a pair of hits and an RBI for the ‘Cats, Stephens went 2-for-5, with an RBI and Jessie Lee had three hits in five at-bats and three RBIs.
Hannah Buffington and Mallory Davis each added two RBIs on one hit and Jessica Garmany accounted for one RBI on one hit for Fort Payne, as well.
Stephens struck out five and walked four in a losing effort. She gave up 12 runs, though — eight earned — on 11 hits.
Brown had a double in addition to her homer, Kenzi Traylor had a single, Casey Eddings a double, triple and four RBIs, Kennedi Tryalor a double, single and two RBIs, Wells had three singles, Jacey Crowell had a single and Kirk finished with one single, as well.
Freshman pitcher Kenzi Traylor took the win for the Lady Bears. Traylor struck out two and gave up 11 runs on 13 hits. However, seven of those runs were unearned, which is uncommon for Brooks’ squad so far this season.
Brooks said the team had some defensive miscues early, which gave Fort Payne such a big advantage.
“(Fort Payne) put the ball in play, and there was a combination of walks — the one thing we’ve been good at all year was defense and that fell apart for us (Tuesday),” Brooks said. “They made us make plays and we didn’t, but we were fortunate to win it in the end.”