Gilbert earned Elite Eight status in the Class 2A state softball playoffs for the first time since 2002 on Wednesday, downing Walhalla 9-5 in the District III championship game.
Pitcher Leigha Hite was not as sharp as usual, but the senior right-hander survived a five-run, fit-hit barrage by the visiting Razorbacks in the fourth inning on the way to nailing down the program’s biggest win in seven years. In the end, Hite allowed six hits and four earned runs while striking out nine.
Hite and Courtney Frye both went 3-for-4 to pace the Indians attack. Hite also had three RBIs, while Frye drove in two.
Gilbert broke a scoreless tie with six runs in the third inning. Frye had a run-scoring double and Hite a RBI single got things going. Alyssa Lacy later delivered a run-scoring single and Savannah Anderson drove home two more with a double.
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Gilbert (14-8) will host either Abbeville or Central in the first round of the Upper State championship tournament on Saturday.
“I really didn’t know what to expect from this team at the beginning of the season, especially after we got off to a 0-4 start,” said long-time Indians coach Reuben Eargle. “But things turned around for us after we shut out Batesburg-Leesville in our first game in the new region. We’ve been playing pretty well for the most part since that game.”
The Tribe’s surprise run to the Region 3-2A pennant came after two straight title runs in a far weaker conference.