By PATRICK CASEY and BLAKE MCCORMICK
The Walton softball team has won 11 straight games and last week wrapped up the regular season championship in District 1 of Class 5A by posting an 11-0 victory over Panama City Bay on Friday night.
Walton finished 4-0 in district competition and will host the district tournament next week with the knowledge that they already have a state playoff berth by virtue of competing in a three-team district and earning the top seed.
The Lady Braves have a pair of games left this week as they host Holmes County on Thursday and Chipley on Friday with the squad looking to avenge losses from earlier in the season to both squads.
Junior pitcher Hannah Poole tossed a no-hitter against the Tornadoes with 11 strikeouts while the offense scored five times in the first inning and three times in both the second and third frames to pick up the win and improve to 14-5 overall on the year.
Macy Danley and Jade Larrick each drove in three runs as the Braves totaled nine hits in the contest.
In Walton’s four district wins against Bay and Rutherford, the Braves posted a 53-0 scoring advantage that has the squad and coach Randi McKie poised to win their third consecutive district title in the sport. Walton will play the winner of next week’s Bay-Rutherford semifinal for the District 1 title on April 27 at 7 p.m.
The Braves had a busy week last week as they gear up for what they hope is another run at the Region 1 title and a trip to the Final Four.
Walton traveled to Paxton on Thursday and posted a 2-0 victory over the Bobcats as Poole threw a one-hitter as she allowed a single to Sadie Varnum with two outs in the first inning before striking out Camryn Brazile to end the frame.
The Bobcats got only two other batters on base over the final six innings, a walk to Paiyton Perry to start the second inning and Hailee Bryan, who was hit by a pitch with two out in the sixth. Poole retired 18 of the final 19 batters without giving up another hit and ended the game with six strikeouts and one walk.
Walton scored their first run in the top of the second as Jade Larrick singled and was replaced by courtesy runner Phredom Coleman who promptly moved to third base on Macy Danley’s sacrifice bunt as she just got under the tag at the bag. Celeste Truett then put the ball in play to the pitcher with a throwing error helping Coleman race in for the go-ahead run.
The Lady Braves added an insurance run in the fifth inning as Jasmin Hester singled, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a clutch two-out single by Jamie Lamb.
Camryn Brazile took the loss for the Bobcats but struck out eight batters while allowing no walks and six hits.
A single run was all Walton garnered, but that’s all the Lady Braves needed, to defeat Marianna 1-0 in a non-district contest played on Tuesday, April 10th in DeFuniak Springs. The win avenged a 2-1 loss to the Lady Bulldogs from back on March 7.
Walton’s Hannah Poole had the game’s only RBI and struck out 12 batters while giving up four hits. Three of those came in a nail-biting final inning that gave the otherwise methodical game a dramatic finish.
In the first inning, Jamie Lamb stroked a shallow pop fly to right field to get on base and was advanced to third thanks to a subsequent bunt by Sydni Earley. Poole then hit another pop fly to right field that plated Lamb for the 1-0 lead.
The game had little offensive activity throughout the next five innings thanks to exceptional pitching by Walton, and nearly flawless fielding by Marianna.
In the top of the seventh inning, Lamb crouched down from the shortstop position to field a routine grounder, but the ball made a surprising bounce that sailed over the senior’s head and allowed a runner on base. Tension mounted when consecutive bunts by Marianna, and a Walton fielding error at first base, loaded the bases. However, Poole showed her poise by striking out the next two batters. The game ended when Earley, who had been shifted to first base following an injury to Kelee Mosley, made up for her previous error by snagging the last out.
Both teams could meet again as Walton has already qualified for the playoffs and Marianna is expected to win the District 2 title next week.
Walton hosts Holmes County and Chipley on Thursday and Friday with 5 p.m. start times for both games.
By PATRICK CASEY and BLAKE MCCORMICK