Gilbert scored a tough 3-2 win over visiting Abbeville in the first-round Class 2A Upper State softball championship tournament. The Indians (15-8) face on a long bus ride on Monday to face No. 1 Crescent in Iva.
“We’ve played Crescent a numbers of my times through the years in the playoffs, but we haven’t had much success,” said Reuben Eargle, the only coach in program history. “But then again, we had never beaten Abbeville or Walhalla before this season.”
Eargle said his teams have never beaten the vaunted Tigers, and have never scored more than one run in any game against Crescent.
Leigha Hite played a key role in yet another Gilbert victory. The senior right-hander pitched a three-hitter with nine strikeouts and just two walks (one intentional). Hite also doubled in the bottom of the sixth inning and eventually scored the winning run on a grounder off the bat of Alyssa Lacy.
Abbeville made things interesting in the top of the seventh, scoring one run to cut the Indians lead to 3-2 and had runner on third and first base before Hite closed it out.
Gilbert jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Leadoff hitter Jasmine Strother singled and scored on Victoria Burkett’s scalding triple down the left field line. Burkett scored on Courtney Frye’s single.
The top-ranked Tigers (26-2) beat Broome 2-0 on Saturday even though they managed to put only two runners on base – one hit, one walk – against Centurions pitcher Shelby Spencer. Both runners, however, scored on errors.
Crescent pitcher Kelsey Davis (24-2) has allowed only one run in four playoff wins so far. She tossed a one-hitter in a District I clinching 5-0 over Andrew Jackson, and was tough in the clutch vs. Broome. She maintained the shutout even though the Centurions had runners on third base with less than two outs three times in the game.
The Tigers’ district-clinching win was the 800th in the long, distinguished career of coach Gary Adams. Crescent boasts 17 state championships under Adams, a national record, but the Tigers have not hoisted a trophy since 2001 - losing in the championship series in 2002 and 2003 and again last season.
For Crescent, that qualifies as a major slump.
Gilbert has not played for a state title since losing to Crescent in 1994. The last playoff meeting of the teams was in 2005.