Bartow defeated Franklin, 3-1, to claim the crown in a pitching duel that was completely opposite to the team’s experience in the tournament prior to the championship match.
Jeff Shinall, program coordinator with the Bartow County Parks and Recreation Department, said Tori O’Neal scattered three hits and struck out 14 batters in the six-inning affair. She walked three.
Franklin scored first in the game, however, as its second batter used a bloop hit to get aboard in the top of the first inning. The runner advanced to second and then third on wild pitches and scored when a Franklin batter guided a grounder to third base.
“After that, Franklin got just two hits, both infield,” Shinall said.
For a long stretch in the game, it looked like that single run just might be enough to help Franklin claim a state title, but Bartow finally found a way to battle back with the bottom part of its batting order up.
It started when Anna-Kate McElhaney coaxed a base on balls to climb aboard. Morgan Cooper laid a bunt down that pulled the first baseman off the bag and Bartow had runners on first and second. Brooke Evans, a left-handed batter, then bounced the ball over the short stop to score McElhaney and knot the score at 1-all. Meanwhile, Cooper moved to third and Evans advanced to second on the play. Emmalee Cigainero hit a grounder to second that drove in Cooper and scored the winning run, giving Bartow a 2-1 lead.
O’Neal drove in Evans with a single for an insurance run and closed out scoring with Bartow up, 3-1.
“It was a good, solid hit to end scoring,” Shinall said.
He said O’Neal walked the leadoff batter for Franklin in the sixth but Bartow got an out on a sacrifice. O’Neal then shut down Franklin with two strikeouts to give Bartow the title.
Shinall said it was a thrilling way to win the state championship.
“We scored three runs on three hits and we won with the bottom of the order — our 7, 8 and 9 batters — up,” he said.
Shinall said Bartow now advances to the Tournament of State Champions that begins July 25 in Clarksville, Tenn.
He added the Bartow team is the first in its category to win the crown.
“We had missed by one game before,” he said. “It’s a big deal for our players.”
He said both O’Neal and Franklin’s pitcher showed some heat.
“They brought a girl who could gas it,” he said. “It was a pitcher’s duel. It looked like real fast-pitch softball out there.”
Bartow 22, West Point 1
Bartow moved into the state championship by overpowering West Point, 22-1, Tuesday night.
Bartow scored five runs in the first inning of that game, with O’Neal delivering a triple to drive in Bartow’s first run.
Haley Wells singled in the team’s second run and the team didn’t stop until five runners had crossed home plate.
O’Neal struck out the side in the bottom of the frame.
Bartow struck for six runs in the top of the second and Bartow led, 11-0.
The local team batted around in the third inning, scoring 11 runs for a 22-0 lead.
Some of the key hits were by O’Neal, a triple; Rachel Lee, a base-clearing triple; Haley Wells, a double; and Evans, an RBI double.
West Point scored its sole run in the bottom of the fourth.
The team won its pool games on Saturday and Monday.
Bartow’s Victoria O’Neal pitched a no-hitter, 10-0, on Saturday.
Offensively, Bartow scored four runs in the first inning, two in the second and four in the fourth.
On Monday, the Bartow All-Stars handled Northern, 12-2.
Bartow scored a run in the first and gave up two runs in the second to trail, 2-1, after an inning and a half of play. Bartow scored seven runs in the bottom of the frame for an 8-2 lead. It finished the game with an inside-the-park grand slam in the fourth inning.