By PATRICK CASEY
A triple by Chipley third baseman Lauren Finch to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning was the big blow to the South Walton softball team on Monday night as the Tigers’ Tiffany Lee drove her in with the winning run on a fielder’s choice play at the plate that saw Finch slide in under the tag for a 1-0 decision over the Seahawks in a District 3, Class A contest.
The game was a pitchers’ duel that saw the Tigers record only three hits and the Seahawks one, a single in the second inning by Adrienne Crawley to lead off the bottom of the second inning.
Chipley senior starter Grace Gilbert was fantastic as she struck out 16 batters, including three in a row after Crawley reached base in the second inning.
Chipley put two runners on in the first inning as Finch singled and Lee walked but a grounder back to South Walton pitcher Alyssa Selvey ended that early threat.
Chloe Waller drew a walk with one out in the third inning with Erin Hartsel getting hit by a pitch to put two runners on base but Gilbert settled down to strike out Kelci Whitfield and coax a ground ball back to the pitcher from Selvey to end the inning.
Chipley speedster Madison Kent singled with one out in the bottom of the third and moved to third base as Caitlin Hartsel’s high throw to the first base bag went down the rightfield line, allowing Kent to motor all the way around to third base.
Selvey was undaunted as she got a pop-up to Whitfield at second base, then saw Whitfield field a ground ball that she tossed to Waller at first base to end the threat.
The Seahawks put their first two batters on base in the fifth inning as Heaven Porter reached on an error with Amanda Workman drawing a walk. Waller then struck out with Erin Hartsel popping up to Gilbert near the mound. Gilbert then struck out Whitfield to end the threat.
Finch singled with two out in the bottom of the sixth but Selvey struck out Lee to push the game into the seventh inning.
Chipley had Baylee Steele get hit by a Selvey pitch to start the eighth inning with a sacrifice by Katie Hinote moving her to second base. Selvey then struck out Kent and Gilbert grounded to first to end that threat.
Gilbert set down 15 in a row after the walk to Workman in the fifth to get her squad through the top of the ninth inning, setting up Finch’s triple that led to the only run of the contest.
Selvey finished with seven strikeouts while allowing just one walk and three hits.
Chipley, which has five senior starters on the squad, improved to 6-3 on the season and 2-0 in district play with the win while South Walton fell to 8-4 overall and 4-1 in the district.
The two teams will meet again on March 30 in South Walton for the second of their two-game regular season series to make up a contest that was scheduled for Feb. 21 but got rained out.
South Walton has non-district home games with Jacksonville Providence on Wednesday at 6 p.m. and junior varsity and varsity games with intra-county rival Paxton on March 27.
By PATRICK CASEY