Despite putting pressure on top-ranked Alexandria early, the Lady Warriors ultimately fell 7-3.
Barnes said he could tell before the game that the fifth-ranked Lady Warriors (18-5, 2-2 Class 4A, Area 10) “weren’t mentally ready to play.”
“A lot of the hits they had won’t go down as an error in the book, but the mental errors caused the physical errors,” he said. “They’re a really good hitting team, one through nine. They really don’t have any weak spots. We hit balls, but they made plays. That’s the difference. They made plays and we didn’t.”
The Lady Warriors jumped out to a 2-0 lead against former Spring Garden pitcher Bree Blevins in the bottom of the first inning.
Blevins, who transferred to Alexandria before the season began, gave up a double to leadoff hitter Madison Millsaps. Lauren Millsaps followed with a double of her own to put the Lady Warriors up 1-0. Tori Davis later added a run-scoring single to left center with two outs, giving Cherokee County a 2-0 lead.
That all changed in the top of the third, when the Lady Cubs (31-5, 5-0) sent eight batters to the plate against Davis and scored four runs.
Phoebe Owen got things rolling for Alexandria with an infield single. Sara Borders followed with a double to left. After Halee Henry struck out swinging, Blevins doubled to left to score Owen. Morgan Read then belted a two-run single to center, and later scored on a passed ball to give the Lady Cubs a 4-2 lead.
“In the past, we’ve had kids if they fall behind it’s hard for them to get back in it,” Alexandria coach Brian Hess said. “All year long, every time we get behind, they keep fighting and plugging away and responding. That’s what we’re looking for. Hopefully they’ll continue to do so.”
Like Hess said, the Lady Cubs kept plugging away.
They added single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, which was more than enough run support for Blevins. She gave up six hits and struck out seven in earning the win.
“She did a good job keeping us off-balance,” Barnes said of Blevins. “We battled her hard. We’ve seen her before, so we know what she throws, but even as much as we know what she throws, she still does a really good job.”
Hess said Blevins was battling a sinus infection during the game, but overcame that to turn in a solid performance.
“She had a mental block early, but started working through it,” Hess said. “Mentally, she got tougher throughout the game, and that’s what we’re looking for in Bree.”
Borders led the Lady Cubs at the plate by going 3-for-3 with two doubles and a walk. Owen added three singles.
In addition to the Millsaps sisters’ doubles, Davis, Candace Blanchard, Kristen Abney and Molly Brewer each contributed a hit.
Davis suffered the loss in the circle. She gave up all seven Lady Cub runs on 12 hits with a pair of walks and three strikeouts.
“Tori did a pretty good job,” Barnes said. “Starting out, she was leaving the ball a little over the plate, but she started hitting her spots. We just couldn’t play defense behind her.”
The loss put the Lady Warriors in a two-game hole in the area to the Lady Cubs, but Hess said the race for the area tournament championship is far from over.
“It’s going to be a dogfight the rest of the year,” Hess said. “Every year, we dread playing Cherokee County just because we know what type of team they have. Coach Barnes does a great job with this program, and they’re going to continue being good. We’re just going to have to ride it out and see how it goes.”
Alexandria 15, Cherokee County 9
CENTRE – The Cherokee County Warriors had one of their most productive outings at the plate on Tuesday against Class 4A, Area 10 rival Alexandria. The only problem was the Valley Cubs had just a few more timely hits, helping them claim a 15-9 win.
We’re coming around, but we just couldn’t hold them down tonight,” Cherokee County coach Jim Garmany said. “They just out-hit us today. Jayde (Boatfield) didn’t pitch bad. They just got key hits at key moments with guys on. They moved them over and got the big hit. We committed a few errors. We walked too many, and that was the difference.”
Leading the offensive charge for the Warriors (7-11, 2-3) was Logan Pierce. Pierce went 3-for-5 and drove in four runs.
“Logan struggled early in the season, and I’m tickled to death to see him come around,” Garmany said. “He’s seeing the ball real well now. He’s finally settled in and started hitting, and I’m happy he’s doing that.”
Kenny Akin was also 3-for-5 at the plate for the Warriors. He scored three runs and had two RBI. Nico McElrath went 3-for-3 and scored three runs. Brett Burgess was 2-for-3 and also scored three runs.
Tyler Burr led the Valley Cubs (13-10, 4-1) at the plate with a home run and a pair of singles. Deante Owens and Logan Doss also homered. Jake Whiting had a double and a single.
Boatfield suffered the loss for the Warriors after working 4 2/3 innings, giving up six hits with three strikeouts. He gave way to Bradley Byram, who worked 2 1/3 innings and allowed four hits with two strikeouts.
Justin Bowen earned the win for Alexandria. He gave up 10 hits and struck out eight.
The two teams conclude their series on Thursday in Alexandria.