By BLAKE MCCORMICK
Walton junior pitcher Hannah Poole was dominating Bay High batters, and the limited contact garnered by the Tornadoes was well managed by Lady Brave fielders, like Sarah Earley, who had a nifty over the shoulder snag in center field during the second inning.
Walton’s batters, however, were only tapping easy to handle hits right into the hands of the opposing fielders and the heavily favored home team found themselves entrenched in a struggle.
Nevertheless, when it mattered the most, Celeste Truett blasted two big hits that made the difference as Walton defeated Bay 3-0 to capture the program’s third consecutive district championship.
“We were kind of struggling a little bit,” said Truett. “So, to get those hits kind of got us going.”
After the first two innings ended with six consecutive Walton batters getting out, the Lady Braves finally got on base when Chambleigh Webster got hit by a pitch during the bottom of the third inning. Next up was Truett, who missed the first pitch, then got a bit of advice from hitting coach Ryan Poole. “Stop worrying about where the ball is going to go and just hit it.”
“I’ve been kind of in a slump,” mentioned a smiling Truett. “Everybody’s been trying to help me get out of it. I just think too much and when I don’t think, I tend to do better.”
Truett responded with a blast to left field that plated Webster for a 1-0 lead. Truett would get tagged out while trying to take third on the play.
“She had been struggling,” said Walton coach Randi McKie. “She came off an injury two years ago, and I think that’s still kind of in the back of her mind. She’s getting better at trusting her back leg and twisting it around. Tonight, she did awesome. She made contact with the ball, and they were all strong hits and that’s what we’ve been after, her making contact and getting those power hits out there.”
Defensively, Poole continued to sit batters down and the Navy Blue and White took their lead into the fifth inning. From there, Webster took first base after being hit by another pitch and Truett smacked a double to right field that put runners at second and third. Jasmin Hester followed with a bunt that plated Webster for a 2-0 lead and Jamie Lamb then poked a single to drive in the game’s final run.
Lamb and Hester, who have been teammates since Little League, were asked how it felt to be part of a senior class that has garnered incomparable softball success at the school.
“It means a lot. I hope everybody remembers us and doesn’t forget what we did,” said Hester.
Per Lamb, “It means everything. We’ve become like a family as the years have went on. It means a lot to me. I hope it stays that way in the softball program.”
Webster grew up playing Little League with the upperclassmen but went to high school in Ponce de Leon before transferring to Walton this year.
“I grew up with these girls,” said Webster. “It’s very special. I’m very thankful for these girls. I came here for my senior year and they’ve made me feel very welcomed.”
The game ended in fitting fashion, with several ladies getting to play in the final inning to seal the district championship. Poole garnered her 13th strikeout, catcher Jade Larrick caught an infield pop fly, and Truett nabbed a grounder and tossed the final out to senior first baseman Kelee Mosley.
Walton’s overall record is now 16-6. The Lady Braves will host Tallahassee Godby in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs on Wednesday, May 3, at 6 p.m.