Lady Tigers win state title

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Contributed report/The Demopolis Times

Back in March, the last thing Demopolis High softball coach Wayne Harris expected was to see his team holding a trophy at Lagoon Park, claiming their first state championship in school history.

For that matter, Harris promised his young ladies that if they won a state title, he’d have his head shaved and let them paint it blue.

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Go buy the paint, ladies.

In their seventh and eighth games against Bibb County, the Lady Tigers ended a marathon two days of softball by sealing a 2-1 win over the Lady Choctaws to win Demopolis High’s first state championship since the boys’ baseball team won a state title in 1986.

And if softball teams around Alabama are reading, the Lady Tigers had no seniors on this year’s team – a great sign for next season.

Harris watched the transformation of his team over the course of two months, and the biggest change, he said, came in the school hallways and not on the diamond.

To Harris, that wasn’t something he accomplished as a coach.

And they did. And they won – they won it all.

Below are capsules of the state championship tournament and the Lady Tigers’ road to the championship.

Game 1(May 15)

Demopolis 5, East Limestone 0

The Tigers got off to a good start when Dorothy Knapp singled to begin the Lady Tiger offense.

After a sacrifice bunt by Kelly Keasler, Knapp would move to 3rd on a single by Lauren Roark.

She would then cross the plate on a passed ball to give Demopolis the 1-0 lead.

Knapp would be responsible for the 2nd Tiger run as she crossed home in the 3rd inning.

After a walk and another sacrifice by Keasler, Knapp could be found on second base.

After a walk to Roark and Katie Simmons was hit by a pitch, the bases faced full.

A walk earned by Timie Lee forced in Knapp.

The offense would score three more insurance runs in the bottom of the 6th inning.

Game 2(May 15)

Demopolis 2, Gulf Shores 1

With one win in the bag, Demopolis looked to pick up number two and stay in the winner’s bracket with the 3:00 game vs. Gulf Shores.

The only problem was the game was about 6 hours behind schedule.

However, the Tiger bats were right on time.

Demopolis needed base runners in the bottom of the seventh and that is what they got.

After a pop out by McGee, Jannet Woods reached on an infield single.

She would be gunned out at second on a ball hit by Heather Wright.

Now with two outs, Wright stood on first and 180 feet from tying the score.

Gulf Shores had managed to get a run in the 4th inning.

With the runner on first, the top of the Tiger offense came to the plate and went to work.

Knapp reached on an error and Kelly Keasler earned a four pitch walk.

Now with the bases loaded and two outs, Lauren Roark stepped to the plate and took over.

Roark took the second pitch she saw and lined it to center.

The Dolphins made a play on the ball but it was too late for the winning run had crossed the plate.

Roark(14-5) earned the win for Demopolis(28-10).

Game 3(May 16)

Bibb County 2, Demopolis 0

In the first game on Friday, the Tiger team had an unscheduled stop &045;&045; the loser’s bracket.

It was a courtesy call by the Lady Choctaws.

Through 5 complete innings, the score was 0-0 but in the top of the 6th, Bibb managed to put together a couple of hits and score two runs.

It proved to be game winner and caused the Lady Choctaws to move into the championship game.

Demopolis dropped into the third place game and needed a win to return to face Bibb County.

Kelly Keasler(11-6) suffered the loss for Demopolis.

She recorded 12 strikeouts while giving up only five hits and walking one.

Game 4(May 16)

Demopolis 2, East Lawrence 0

Anytime you can get timely hitting, one has to be pleased.

However, how often do you get two timely hits?

After two ground outs to start the game with East Lawrence, Lauren Roark and Katie Simmons did the never-before-seen in Demopolis Tiger history and hit back-to-back home runs.

With the 2-0 lead, Demopolis never looked back.

Lauren Roark(15-5) pitched six innings giving up three hits and walking three.

She also recorded 5 strikeouts.

Kelly Keasler earned her first save of the year by pitching in the seventh inning.

She struck out all three batters she faced.

With the victory, Demopolis assured itself a chance to play for the championship and have a return volley with a familiar foe.

Game 5(May 16)

Demopolis 8, Bibb County 4

Arriving back to play Bibb County was one of the Lady Tigers goals but not the only goal.

Demopolis knew that it was time to work hard for a bit of redemption.

Two weeks prior in the section tournament, Demopolis had faced a painful defeat at the hands of the Lady Choctaws when Bibb County came out of the loser’s bracket too win the tournament.

The Lady Tigers now eyed the upset and a first place finish at state.

Bibb County had a separate agenda to attend to and it did not matter who was in the way.

After three sharply hit balls to start the game, Bibb was now leading 2-0.

Even though down by the two runs after the first half inning, one had to remember once again that this situation was one that Demopolis had faced before.

Just one week prior in game two at St. James, the Lady Tigers had spotted the home team two runs before mounting a comeback.

Demopolis(30-11) did not disappoint.

Dorothy Knapp started the comeback with a single.

After Kelly Keasler struck out on an 11 pitch at bat, Knapp would move to third on a ball hit to center by Lauren Roark.

She then would score on a sharply hit ball by Simmons.

The inning ended with a double play but not before Demopolis had trimmed the lead to 2-1.

The offense was sparked again in the third when Knapp doubled with one out.

She would move around the bases on a passed ball and a hit by Keasler.

Lauren Roark then reached on an error that allowed Knapp to score.

On a play that looked almost identical, Katie Simmons reached to allow Keasler to score and suddenly the Lady Tigers had a 3-2 lead.

Bibb County came right back with a run in the top of the 4th to even the score at 3-3.

Fortunate for Demopolis, enough was enough.

The bottom of the 4th saw the bats come alive and five runs come across the plate to make it a 8-3 deficit.

India Chancelor began the inning with a line drive to first.

Kristin Etheridge then grounded out.

With two outs, Jannet Woods then singled to center.

Heather Wright followed with a single to center.

Knapp singled to center and scored Woods on the first pitch she saw.

Kelly Keasler then walked.

With two outs and bases loaded, Roark delivered a two RBI hit to center.

Katie Simmons followed with a two run single to right.

Timie Lee reached on an error before Chancelor grounded to short to end the inning.

With a five run lead, Keasler(12-6) settled in on the mound and took care of the batters.

She would give up one more run in the 6th inning to make the final margin 8-4.

Keasler tossed a six hitter and struck out five to move Demopolis within one game of a state championship.

Game 6(May 16)

Demopolis 2, Bibb County 1

Fighting and overcoming the odds, Demopolis forced the "if necessary" game that teams never want to see or think about.

Having just fought through a tough game to earn the right to play in the last possible game of the school year, the Lady Tiger were primed and ready for action.

The first inning for this game saw both teams go peacefully to the dugouts with no fireworks to start the game.

In this game, the offense would not be jumped started until the second inning.

Bibb County executed perfectly after getting a lead off single from their catcher.

They moved her to third and scored on a fielder’s choice to second.

Bibb now led 1-0.

However, the Bibb County lead was a short thought in this game.

On the first pitch from Lady Choctaw Leigh Epperson, Katie Simmons launch a towering shot to center.

The ball settled into the dew drenched centerfield grass just beyond the portable fence and Demopolis was right back in the game.

The Lady Tigers continued to threaten to score in the inning but were unable to get any more runs.

The Lady Tigers found another run in the next inning when Kelly Keasler singled with two outs.

She would move to second on a ball hit by Lauren Roark.

Simmons then picked up her second RBI with a double to center.

Demopolis now had a 2-1 lead.

The defense showed a bend but don’t break attitude as the Lady Choctaws continued to fight for a run but be denied.

They ended the 5th inning with the tying run at third.

In the 6th inning, they faced a better situation with one out and runners at first and second.

Bibb County started the inning with a single.

Then Roark got the next batter to fly out to Kristin Etheridge at short.

They then got a line drive to left field.

With runners on first and second, Brittany McGee then gathered up a sharply hit grounder to third and flipped to Etheridge on the base for the second out.

Roark then struck out the last batter to end the threat.

In the sixth inning for Demopolis, Timie Lee singled and moved to third but was left stranded there.

It was time for the defense to end the threat and pick up the first place trophy.

Lauren Roark(16-5) made the first out on a diving play off the mound to catch a pop up.

The second out was a towering fly ball to Jannet Woods in center.

With two outs, Roark sealed the deal with a ground ball hit to Katie Simmons at first.

The Lady Tigers(31-11) had their championship.

Roark picked up the win by pitching a complete game in which she scattered five hits, one walk and two strikeouts.

Demopolis ended the season by defeating Bibb County four out of eight times they faced each other.

With a team that has no seniors, high hopes are for a quick return to Montgomery next May.

The tournament organizers selected four Demopolis players to be included on the All-tournament team.

These players include Kelly Keasler, Lauren Roark, Katie Simmons, and Dorothy Knapp.

Roark was selected as the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.