Lady 'Cats split area openers, are a win away from regional berth

Taylor Camp batted 3-for-4 and scored once in Fort Payne’s win over Albertville Tuesday in the first round of the 6A, Area 13 Tournament in Oxford.

OXFORD – The Fort Payne Lady Wildcats split their first two postseason games Tuesday in the 6A, Area 13 Tournament.

The Lady ‘Cats rallied from an early deficit to defeat Albertville 2-1 before falling to top-seeded Oxford 7-4.

The loss puts Fort Payne in a win-or-go-home situation Thursday when they battle Albertville again in the losers’ bracket. The winner of that 4:30 p.m. bout will advance to the area finals and will guarantee themselves a spot in the 6A North Regional in Florence next week while the loser will have their season come to an end.

The winner of that matchup will then have to defeat Oxford twice tonight to win the area tournament.

Here are recaps of the Lady Wildcats’ two area tournament games from Tuesday:

FORT PAYNE 2,

ALBERTVILLE 1

The Lady Aggies struck first in the bottom of the first inning when Leah Wood followed an Emma Spurlin single with a 1-out, RBI double on a line drive to center field.

Albertville then put in a pinch runner at second before Fort Payne escaped further damage by turning a double play.

That double play came when Alli Reno flied out to Presley Smith in center field. The runner on second then tagged up and tried to advance, but Smith fired a strike to third and Taylor Camp tagged the runner out to end the inning.

Both lineups went down in order in the second frame before Fort Payne knotted the score with a brief rally in the top of the third.

The Lady ‘Cats loaded the bases with one after Braden Barksdale walked, Camp singled and Laci Blankenship reached on an error while bunting.

Fort Payne pitcher Addison Eason then helped her own cause when she smacked an RBI single to the left side that scored Barksdale and tied the game at 1-all.

The Lady ‘Cats still had the bases loaded with one out after Eason’s single, but Albertville didn’t allow their rivals to take a lead by forcing a flyout and a groundout to escape the jam.

Eason and the Fort Payne defense stranded an Albertville runner in the third and fourth innings before the Lady Wildcats’ lineup showed that their will to get on base by any means necessary in the top of the fifth.

That inning saw Camp and Blankenship hit a pair of 1-out singles before Eason was plunked by a pitch to load the bases again.

Hannah Buffington then stepped to the plate and was hit by another pitch, which scored Camp from third and gave Buffington a free RBI.

Emily Ellis then tried to pad the Lady Wildcats’ lead with a hard-hit liner up the middle, but Albertville’s pitcher snagged the ball out of the air and doubled up Buffington at first to end the rally.

The Lady Aggies nearly answered back in their half of the fifth when two singles and an error on Fort Payne shortstop Anna McElrath loaded the bases with one out.

McElrath then bounced back on the next ball in play, which came her way. McElrath fielded it cleanly and fired it to the plate in time to get the force out at home.

Eason’s next pitch resulted in a flyout to Blankenship in right field to end the inning with the lead intact.

Eason retired the side in order in the sixth before escaping trouble again when the Lady Aggies were down to their final three outs in the bottom of the seventh.

Albertville put the tying and go-ahead runs on base with a single and an error with two outs. Eason then forced a grounder to third and Camp threw the runner out at first to seal the win.

Eason struck out one, walked none and gave up one earned run on eight hits in seven innings pitched. She also batted 2-for-3 with an RBI for Fort Payne.

Camp led the Lady Wildcats’ lineup with a 3-for-4 day out of the leadoff spot. She singled three times and scored once.

Blankenship and McElrath had a hit each, Barksdale walked and scored and Buffington had one RBI.

OXFORD 7,

FORT PAYNE 4

Fort Payne’s dugout was pumped up after a fast start at the plate against area tournament host Oxford, but the Lady Yellow Jackets chipped away at that lead and eventually pulled away with a pair of late 2-run rallies.

That fast start for Fort Payne came in the top of the first when Taylor Camp led off with a single to right field before Hannah Buffington launched a 2-run homer over the left-field wall three batters later with two outs.

Oxford then led off their half of the first with a double. That runner came in to score to cut the lead to one.

Fort Payne nearly led by two again in the second when Anna McElrath singled, went to second on an error and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt from Jadyn Huskey, but Oxford kept McElrath from advancing any further.

The Lady Jackets then capitalized on a leadoff walk and an error to plate the tying run in the bottom of the second.

An inning later, Oxford put two runners in scoring position after a single and a double and drove in a run to take a 3-2 lead.

The Lady Jackets had a solo homer and an RBI single in the fifth and followed with another solo homer and an RBI groundout in the sixth to stretch their lead to 7-2.

Fort Payne tried to mount a comeback in the seventh with a Madison Medckie single and a walk to McElrath that was followed two batters later by a 2-RBI double from Braden Barksdale.

That cut the lead to three with one out in the seventh, but Oxford retired Fort Payne’s next two batters to end the game.

Addison Eason struck out three and walked three for the Lady Wildcats.

McElrath batted 2-for-2 with two singles, a walk and a run scored. Buffington and Barksdale had two RBIs each.

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