By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
Good Hope’s Cara Goodwin typically does her talking on the pitching mound, having already thrown five perfect games this season to go along with numerous no-hitters and a plethora of shutouts.
So, it should come as no surprise when Goodwin’s two-hit shutout helped put the finishing touches on the Raiders’ 10-0 Cullman County Softball Tournament championship victory over Cold Springs on Wednesday afternoon, the senior was short on words — but high on emotion.
“It felt awesome,” the ace exclaimed of her team’s win. “Yeah.”
Goodwin and her teammates were certainly awesome against the Eagles, as Goodwin struck out nine batters over five innings, and Good Hope’s bats produced eight fifth-inning runs to mercy their county foe and earn their first county title since 2010. It was the 17th win in a row for the No. 4 Raiders, whose record improved to 25-5 on the season.
“It was a great game for us,” coach Wayne Harris said. “These girls finished what they started on Monday against a good team.”
Harris’ squad put up its first run in the first inning off an RBI groundout from Alannah Henke that scored Kayla Tillman, who singled to leadoff the frame.
Neither offense could get much going after that, however, as both Goodwin and Cold Springs’ Rilee White were on top of their games early.
After a couple of Eagle singles in the first two innings, Goodwin said she and catcher Darcie Wilson made a small adjustment that paid huge dividends in the last three frames.
“This game was different than the last one with them because they were sitting on my rise ball,” the All-American said. “So me and Darcie decided to throw them a lot of drop balls, and it worked pretty well.”
Following the change in strategy, Goodwin retired seven of the next nine batters by strikeout.
Harris was impressed with his team’s ability to adapt during the game.
“All facets of our game are improving,” he said. “When you are recognizing and adjusting to what the other team is focusing on, that shows a lot of maturity with this age group.”
While Goodwin took care of things on the mound, Good Hope’s offense decided it’d go win a championship in the bottom of the fifth.
Henke got things started with an RBI double — her second of the game — that scored Bailie Andrews and extended the Raiders’ cushion to three runs. Wilson followed with a two-run double of her own before Savannah Fendley drove her in with yet another double to make it a 6-0 game with just one out in the inning.
Unfortunately for Cold Springs, the doubles just kept on coming for the Raiders, as both Kacy Thomas and Tillman knocked in runs with two more two-baggers. From there, it was back to the top of the order, where Andrews ended the contest on a walkoff, mercy-inducing single to score Tillman and secure the trophy for Good Hope.
Tillman, one of the four seniors on the team, said this county championship was meaningful because of how the last two had ended in losses to Holly Pond.
“I just wanted to beat them, personally,” she said. “I was happy when we did, and it made it even better than we got here and won it all.”
She added her team has fed off each other during this entire season and stated that’s what led to her team’s late eight-run eruption.
“Once we get some hits in a row, we get excited and everyone starts hitting,” she said. “Knowing we’ve got a pitcher like Cara who fights hard for us, we needed to fight hard for her.”
Tillman recorded two hits and scored a pair of runs, while Fendley added two knocks and two RBIs in the win. Wilson, Henke, Andrews, Goodwin and Thomas all finished with an RBI hit as well.
Goodwin’s pitching performance during the three-day event netted her an easy selection on the All-Tournament Team. Tillman, Henke, Wilson and Andrews joined her on the squad as position players.
McKinnley Davis and Hannah Wilson recorded the only two hits of the game for Cold Springs.
Despite the loss, coach Patrick West was encouraged by his team’s run to the title tilt.
“We are happy with the girls and pleased they made it to the finals,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of teams who’d like to be where we were today. We still want to win and host area. Our girls have been working hard to take those steps. We’ll get there.”
White, Davis and catcher Taylor Payne were selected to the All-Tourney squad for the Eagles. Joining them were Fairview’s Melody Manasco, West Point’s Karra Elam, Holly Pond’s Katlyn Whitehead and Taylor Rowell, and Vinemont’s Raven Christensen, Katie Speer and Kendra Pearson.
For Harris, he was happy for his seniors and hopeful this tournament will be a springboard with the postseason just around the corner.
“I know it means a lot to them,” he said. “We want to keep it going for the next five weeks. We’ve got some good, friendly competition throughout the county. They’ll have this moment etched in their minds 50 years from now, and that’s a good thing to have.”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.