By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
For as well as Good Hope’s softball team has played over the last two seasons, it’s come up just short in each of its past two county tournament championship games.
The rub? Holly Pond.
The Raiders took a positive step in correcting that problem on Tuesday, shutting down the Broncos 8-0 and advancing to the semifinals of the Cullman County Softball Tournament.
“It was a good win for us,” coach Wayne Harris said. “The kids really wanted this game because of the past two years. They were enthused, focused and probably the sharpest they’ve looked all season.”
The victory improved No. 4 Good Hope’s record to 23-5 overall, including a 15-game winning streak where the Raiders have pitched an impressive 13 shutouts.
After tossing a perfect game in the first outing of the day, Cara Goodwin followed her performance with another beauty.
The UAB signee allowed just two hits in seven innings of work, while striking out 13 batters and walking two.
“Cara pitched a good game against a pretty good lineup,” Harris said of his ace. “Once we put some runs on the board, she relaxed a little bit and got even better.”
Alannah Henke got the scoring started for the Red and White in the third inning, tripling home Bailie Andrews — who singled to lead off the frame — to give Good Hope a 1-0 advantage.
After a Darcie Wilson walk, Maegan Sterling knocked in Henke with a bunt single to extend the lead to two.
It was more than enough for Goodwin, who struck out three in the second inning, two in the third and two in the fourth to keep the Bronco offense at bay.
“It doesn’t really matter who we play, we’ve got to hit the ball,” Holly Pond coach Steve Miller said. “When you get behind to a pitcher like her (Goodwin), hitters think they need to do a little too much at the plate and they start pressing.”
The Raiders broke out in the fifth inning, taking advantage of some Holly Pond defensive miscues and scoring six runs on RBI doubles from Kayla Tillman, Andrews and Henke. Darby Randolph helped the cause as well, driving in Savannah Fendley on a groundout.
“Hitting is contagious,” Harris said. “We have 10 girls, and they feed off each other, whether it’s on offense or defense. We put a lot of balls in play today.”
Henke finished with three hits in the game, while Tillman and Andrews collected two knocks apiece. Fendley and Sterling were good for one as well.
Kolby Holcombe and Sami Hinds racked up the only two hits of the game for the Broncos. Emma Thompson struck out two.
Vinemont and Cold Springs’ second-round contest was in progess at presstime.
The Raiders will take on the winner of that game today at 3 p.m. with a trip to the title game on the line.
% Good Hope 10, West Point 0: Goodwin struck out eight and pitched a perfect game to go along with a home run and four RBIs at the plate to help the Raiders cruise to a five-inning, tournament-opening victory.
The perfecto was the UAB signee’s fifth of the season and increased her no-hitter total to 10.
While Goodwin did her thing in the pitcher’s circle, Tillman took the wheel in a strong offensive outing for Good Hope. The senior was a perfect 4 for 4 and led off the bottom of the first inning with a bang — more like a thud — by drilling a pitch off the top of a bus parked behind the left field fence.
Sterling nearly notched a third home run for the Raiders in the fourth but settled for a double off the fence. She finished 3 for 3 with a pair of RBIs.
Goodwin was perfect with her bat as well as her arm, slugging a two-run shot in the third en route to a 2-for-2 performance. Her other hit was a two-run single that bumped her RBI production to four.
Andrews snuck a walkoff triple into the right-field corner for her second hit and second RBI of the ballgame. Wilson and Darby Randolph contributed one hit apiece, while Wilson also came through with one RBI.
The Warriors came awfully close to corraling a hit with two outs in the third inning. Lefty Kayla Sullins was just barely unable to beat the throw to first base, however, on a dribbler slapped down the third-base line.
Karli Beck struck out two for West Point.
% Vinemont 7, Fairview 1: Raven Christensen and the hosting Eagles gave their well-represented fanbase plenty to cheer about, taking a 3-0 lead in the first inning and never looking back.
Christensen, one of three Vinemont players with two hits, struck out four in a complete-game effort and dazzled with her defense in the pitcher’s circle. She snagged four liners drilled her way, doubled up the Aggies twice in those instances and ran down a short floater to lead off the fourth.
Kendra Pearson and Rachel Sellers were the Eagles other two-hit ladies. Pearson also pitched in a stole base.
Katie Speer, who laid out for a spectacular catch in right field to end the third inning, had an RBI double, and Allison Fowler drove in two with a single.
Melody Manasco and Kaylynn Holcomb led off the third with back-to-back doubles to account for Fairview’s lone run. Manasco was a flawless 3 for 3, Holcombe was right behind at 2 for 3, and Dalys Mullican was good for a double. Maddie McNutt and Harley Gibbs both had one hit each for the Aggies.
Holcomb finished with four K’s in a complete-game outing.
% Cold Springs 8, Hanceville 3: Haley Freeman and Hanna Wilson kept the bats rolling, and Rilee White overcame two early errors on the mound to keep the Eagles in the winner’s bracket.
Freeman and Wilson were both 3 for 4. Freeman skied an RBI triple in the first inning and later added a double. Wilson also had a two-base hit and drove in a team-high three runs.
Cold Springs had two other girls with multi-hit showings — Rebekah Calvert and White. Calvert opened the second inning with a triple and was brought in right away on a groundout by Savanna Taylor.
Hayden West chipped in a hit and an RBI, and McKinnley Davis provided a leadoff single.
White settled down after two high throws to first base in the first inning to wind up with 10 strikeouts over seven innings of work.
Bulldog Madison Winfrey knocked in Alyssa Rossie with a double in the fourth inning. Haley Wilson also had a single in the frame.
Katie Tankersley and Baileigh Pitts rounded out Hanceville’s offensive contributions with one hit apiece.
Pitts struck out three in seven innings.
Due to early deadlines, coverage of the second and final day of the county softball tournament will run in Thursday’s Times. However, see www.cullmantimes.com for results and a story shortly following Tuesday’s championship game.
% The Times’ sports editor Rob Ketcham contributed to this report.