By JD McCarthy for the Opelika Observer
When Stan Pepper made Beulah’s softball schedule, he knew their record likely would not reflect how good his team is. This may sound like classic coach speak, but in this case, it doesn’t ring hollow.
Of the Lady Bobcats first 15 games only three have come against other 3A teams and eight have come against 6 or 7A programs. So, while their 5-10 record may not look great, the 2-1 record against other 3A opponents is what you should pay attention to.
“It shows them that when we play teams that are in 3A we are going to have success and that’s all that’s important, playing 3A teams and beating 3A teams, being competitive in 3A,” Pepper said. “Stepping up and playing 5A, 6A or 7A teams helps us prepare for that.”
The Lady Bobcats showed that on Thursday when they travelled to Notasulga and dispatched Reeltown 11-1 behind a dominant performance from Brandy Phillips to pick up their first region win of the season.
Phillips did it all for the Lady Bobcats, allowing just one unearned run in six innings and struck out 12 batters to just three hits. Her stellar work wasn’t limited to the circle either, as she went 3-for-4 with a home run, one RBI and two runs.
Phillips wasn’t the only Lady Bobcat to have a big game offensively, as Abrianna Green had a home run and two triples.
The two area foes faced off again Saturday in the Valley Tournament and Beulah once again cruised to a victory, winning 10-3.
Phillips once again asserted her dominance, pitching four innings in relief and allowing one unearned run and striking out four. She also went 3-of-4 at the plate with a home run and three RBI. Anna Grey and Katie Morris each had three hits as Morris belted her second home run of the season.
This was the first weekend Pepper was able to rely on Phillips in the circle as she was limited by elbow tendonitis last weekend.
“She pitched well this weekend,” Pepper said. “We managed that situation well and that’s not going to go away any time soon.”
Her return gives the Lady Bobcats two pitchers in Phillips and Morris who can shut down an opponent.
“They are both pitching really well and as long as they are doing that we will be in every game,” Pepper said of the duo.
Following the win Beulah was once again faced a larger school, falling 5-3 to Smiths Station.
Morris was in the circle for Beulah and took the loss after allowing five runs, three earned, in four innings. “Katie pitched really well too, she just had a little bit stiffer competition vs Smiths Station,” Pepper said.
The Lady Bobcats rebounded with an 8-0 victory over Valley. Phillips threw another gem, allowing just one hit in six innings of work and striking out eight batters. Her good play once again carried over to the plate where she went 2-4 with a home run, double and a RBI.
With the win Beulah advanced to the championship game for a rematch with Smiths Station.
With the championship on the line, Smiths Station struck the first blow, scoring four runs in the bottom of the third.
Beulah responded with four runs of their own to tie it up at four. However, the tie did not hold as Smiths Station scored three runs in the bottom of the inning to take a commanding 7-4 lead.
“I’d have liked to been 4-0, but you’re not going to win them all,” Pepper said.
While Phillips leads the team in essentially every offensive category, Kassidy Kirby and Green have emerged as key contributors in a lineup that looks to come out aggressive to open games.
“We feel like if we can get a run or two early with our pitching then we are going to have a chance to win, so we try to get real aggressive in the early innings and let the pitching take over,” Pepper said of his team’s offence.
The weekend was a good performance for the Lady Bobcats, but they are now focused on their matchups with Opelika and Dadeville this week as they continue to get better every day.
Pepper expects the game with Dadeville, another region opponent to be a good test for his girls as they look to knock Beulah off their perch atop the area rankings.
“Were comfortable right now where we are” Pepper said. “We are getting better offensively and defensively but we don’t want to be peeking now, but we want to be working towards our peek in May.”