His team was among the last people to leave Lagoon Park on Friday night, but Hayden coach John Simmons didn’t worry about a lack of rest after the Wildcats’ 10-inning victory over Saraland.
His players can sleep next week.
Hayden’s reward for winning was a date with top-ranked Scottsboro in the second set of Class 5A games on Saturday morning, but the Hayden coach wasn’t counting the hours until the meeting in the winners bracket finals.
“This is not our first rodeo as far as this game (extending into the late hours),” Simmons said. “We’ve had seven or eight of these big extra-inning games where it seems like every pitch is the most important thing. I hope (today) we get a little bit of rest, but when we were in Tuscaloosa (for the North Central regionals) last week we didn’t get but about three hours of sleep (before facing McAdory). Tonight, we’re getting six or seven, so that is definitely a plus. This is like a vacation, getting this much sleep.”
Of course, he didn’t point out that his Wildcats lost to McAdory 5-4 and had to fight back through the losers bracket to beat McAdory 5-0 to advance to the state tournament.
It looked like Hayden (43-6) was heading to another defeat on Friday. After Brooke Meadows and Meleah Hargett had back-to-back hits off of Saraland starter Allison Pickett, the Wildcats wouldn’t muster another hit until the seventh inning.
Saraland, meanwhile, got a home run from Pickett and scored another run in the sixth off a pair of errors to take a 2-1 lead into the seventh.
“We continued to make contact on her,” Simmons said. “She kept us off balance a little bit so we couldn’t get competitive hits off of her but something started happening to her, a shoulder problem or something, and they had to change pitchers.”
Down to their last out, the Wildcats’ Alyssa Phillips singled to right to drive in the game-tying run. Three innings later, off of reliever Kaitlin Bryars, Meadows doubled to left field and scored on an error for the game-winning run.
“Their first couple of times through the lineup, they were just tattooing the ball,” Simmons said of the Saraland batters. “We were lucky enough to catch several of them, but they caused us some problems, so we decided to change up the speeds a little bit (on the pitches) when we went back through the lineup a third time. It seemed to keep them off balance a little bit.”
The 10th-inning celebration was tempered by the loss of freshman Abby White, who came in as a pinch runner and was thrown out at third base on a single to left that injured White. Simmons said she may have suffered a broken bone in her leg on the play.
Saraland (36-9) will play area rival Faith in an elimination-round game today at 9 a.m. Hayden, meanwhile, will battle Scottsboro, which defeated Curry 2-1 in a strange game that saw the Yellow Jackets muster only one run despite 11 hits. Kelly Campbell went 2 for 3 for Scottsboro and scored both runs, one on a first-inning double by Emily Glover, the other on a third-inning groundout by Glover.