While the hurt of the game will last for a while, the Pleasant Valley team has nothing but a very bright and promising future to look forward to.
There are no seniors on the Lady Raiders team. They have only two juniors on the team, the rest being comprised of six sophomores, two ninth graders, three eighth graders and four seventh graders on the team.
Two of the seventh graders, Holly Stewart and Anna Bryant, pitched in the double elimination Regional Tournament. Rather than being intimidated and showing a lack of self-confidence, the entire young Lady Raider team showed a poise and maturity way beyond their years.
In the first game of the tournament, Pleasant Valley fell behind to Cold Springs 6-0 in the first two innings. While the Lady Raiders were able to put four runs on the board, they were never able to catch up and took a 7-4 loss.
Sophomore Anna Craven had a double and Abby Hedgepath, Savannah Spaulding, Tiffany Williams and McKinley Parris all had singles.
The loss to Cold Springs put the Lady Raiders in the losers bracket and rather than pack up their bags and get ready to head for home Pleasant Valley showed it had come to play.
The Lady Raiders won a 14-3 mercy run rule in five innings over Fultondale. Seventh grader Anna Bryant took the win in the circle, pitching all five innings allowing three runs on two hits and two errors and struck out three.
Pleasant Valley exploded with 14 hits and scored 12 runs in the second inning and two runs in the third.
Jordan Moorer was two-for-two at the plate for Pleasant Valley with Hedgepath, Williams, Perry and Parris all going two-for-three, Spaulding two-for-four and Craven and Bailey Turner each getting hits.
First day action, delayed sometimes as much as three hours or more due to the rain, caused delays in the Saturday morning games as well. Pleasant Valley was slated to play at 8AM but had to sit through the finish of a rain-delayed game from the night before.
With overcast skies threatening rain, the Lady Raiders finally got on the field against Vincent.
In the first inning Pleasant Valley just didn’t play up to par. Vincent chased away two pitchers in the first inning scoring eight runs before Pleasant Valley coach David Bryant went to sophomore Christa Lynn to take over on the mound.
The Lady Raiders chipped away, scoring one run in the bottom half of the first as Craven reached on an error and scored on an error on a ball hit by Kara Perry.
While the Lady Raiders appeared tired and sluggish at the first of the game, bats started to come alive in the bottom of the second. Perry hit a bases loaded double to score all three runs. Perry, only an eighth grader, had an astonishing eight RBI’s in the game that the Lady Raiders went on to win 18-9. A single by Parris brought home Perry for the fourth run of the inning.
Pleasant Valley tied up the score in the bottom of the fourth. Craven, Hedgepath and Tiffany Williams all drew walks. A sacrifice fly by Perry brought in Craven and two more runs scored on a triple to right field by Spaulding to tie the game at 8-8.
The Lady Raiders sent 13 batters to the plate in the bottom of the fifth scoring seven runs. The inning was highlighted by a double down the third base line by Turner, a double to score one run by Madison Bentley, and singles by Shepard, Williams, Perry, and Turner.
Three more runs were added in the bottom of the sixth for the 18-9 win.
Turner ended the game going 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI, Williams was 3-for-4 with one RBI, Perry 3-for-4 with eight RBI, Turner 3-for-4 two RBI, Spaulding 2-for-4 with a triple and two RBI and Shepard was 2-for-3.
Lynn, who came in to pitch in the first inning and stopped the Vincent scoring rampage, allowed one run on four hits and stuck out six.
The win allowed the Lady Raiders to advance to face their old nemesis, Wellborn, a team they had already beaten four times during the season while losing only once in their five meetings.
This game, however, would belong to Wellborn who took an 8-4 win and went on to claim the second qualifying spot to move on to the state playoffs.
Bryant went to seventh grader Holly Stewart to pitch the game, in what had to be one of the most stressful situations you could put a seventh grade pitcher in. The move showed the confidence Coach Bryant has in his young players.
Pleasant Valley gave up one run in the first inning on a bizarre play. With a runner on first, a ball was hit deep to the outfield and Spaulding ran down the ball and made a terrific catch, crashing into Williams as she made the catch. In obvious pain, Spaulding, on the ground, lifted her glove to show she had made the play but was unable to get up. The runner on first tagged up and scored. Spaulding was taken off the field in extreme pain and eventually was taken to the hospital with an undisclosed injury.
Wellborn scored six more runs in the bottom of the second during a pouring rain for a 7-0 lead.
Never giving up, the Lady Raiders put three runs on the board in the top of the third. Shepard reached on an error and Craven hit a single to deep left field. Shepard scored on a passed ball; Perry hit a single scoring another run and Craven scored on another passed ball.
The Lady Raiders scored their final run of the game and the season in the top of the fifth. Craven hit a single to left, Williams a single to right and Perry, as Perry does best, had another RBI on the day when she hit a single to score Craven.
Wellborn scored in the top of the sixth for the 8-4 win.
For Bryant, this team has brought him a great deal of pride over the season. “We had several goals that we wanted to accomplish and they worked really hard in the offseason to do that,” said Bryant. “We wanted to win our area in the regular season and in the tournament and we did both of those and we wanted to make it to Regionals and be in the top two.
“It’s been very rewarding to set goals and then watch the girls work so hard to accomplish those. They are a really good group, they are motivated and they want to do well. That makes it fun to coach.
“They just find a way to win and they have learned that at a young age. It’s going to be fun over the next few years. They have figured it out at an early age to do what you’ve got to do to win the games.
“I have never doubted them. We can get down but they just keep their nose to the grindstone and do what we do. They never give up and they are never in a game that they believe they’re not going to win. That’s maturity at a young age. I’m proud of them for that. They are a family and they are friends; they get along so well. We don’t use age as an excuse, they are ball players whether they are 12 or 16.”
Bryant had more excitement than just taking his young team to the Regional Tournament this past week. On Tuesday he and his wife, Dana, the Pleasant Valley volleyball coach, welcomed their first son, David F Bryant IV into the world weighing 7 lbs. 15 oz. and 20 inches long. Both mother and child are doing well.