Beulah’s Morris and Phillips lead championship push
By Wil Crews
Beulah softball is just getting started.
“I just feel like we are not done,” head coach Stan Pepper said. “We truly have not played our best game offensively and defensively at the same time.”
The Bobcats have blistered their way through an area and regional tournament – finishing undefeated and first in both – and now have their eyes set on a state title.
“Now it’s more of a mental thing,” Pepper said. “We are ready from a technical standpoint. We just have to get physically healthy … because you could play as many as seven games if you get in the losers’ bracket … so it’s about who handles the situation the best mentally and physically.”
Last Friday, Beulah entered the East Central 3A Softball Regionals after sweeping the AHSAA 3A Area 07 tournament. In their first round matchup against Wellborn High School of Anniston, Alabama, the Bobcats dispelled their opponents with ease, run-ruling the Panthers in six innings by a score of 10-0.
Like it has been so many times this season, Katie Morris and Brandy Phillips formed a daunting tag-team duo on the mound against Wellborn. Combining to throw six shutout innings, the two pitchers struck out 10, walked three and allowed just three hits.
On offense, Beulah took the lead after a four-run outburst in the first inning. The Bobcats then followed that up with one in the third, three in the five and two in the sixth to end the game.
Six of the nine Beulah batters registered hits. Phillips and Morris were as formidable as ever on the mound, but at the plate, they greeted the Panthers’ pitches with ease. Phillips ended her day 2-for-3 with a double, triple, three runs scored, one stolen base and two RBI’s.
“When she gets on base it’s hard to get her out,” Pepper said of Phillips. “When we need a clutch hit or something, Brandy always comes through for us.”
Morris went 2-for-2 with two RBI’s, two runs scored and two stolen bases. Amaya Dunn, Abrianna Green, Savanna Clements and Kassidy Kirby finished with one hit apiece.
Beulah had to work a little harder for its 2-1, round two regional victory over the Pleasant Valley High School Raiders. Phillips and Morris were again on the mound for Beulah. The two were commanding, allowing just four hits for the game, with the only Raider run coming unearned, due in part to the Bobcats’ three errors.
The game was tied after two innings. Pleasant Valley then struck first in the bottom of the third to take a 1-0 lead. Beulah responded immediately with two runs in the top of the fourth to regain the lead. The Bobcats were stymied for the remainder of the game, however, the staunch pitching from Phillips and Morris shut the Panthers’ out as well. Offensively, Morris was the only Bobcat to register more than one hit for the game; she and Phillips were responsible for the two runs Beulah scored. Green, Clements and Kirby added one hit apiece.
On Saturday, in what would prove to be their final game, the Bobcats defeated the Piedmont Bulldogs, 1-0, to claim the regional championship.
“Our defense, minus the two errors was solid, and we did just enough of what we had to do to score enough runs to win the ball game,” Pepper said.
Morris threw 6.2 innings on the mound as she no hit the Bulldogs, striking out 12 batters in the process.
“She did an outstanding job in the circle for us,” Pepper said of Morris. “I consider [her] the best pitcher in the state.”
The pitching was strong on both sides, however, as Beulah managed to scrape just four hits off of Piedmont pitcher Savannah Smith. Clements led the way, going 3-for-3 at the plate.
“She really shined this past week over all three games,” Pepper said of Clements. “She’s just been a utility player for us all year and she played extremely well.”
The breakthrough for the Bobcats came in the fourth inning when Morris hit in Phillips (who else?) to score the only run of the game.
“I wasn’t nervous at all once we got the first out in the top of the sixth inning, I knew the game was over,” Pepper said. “I had so much confidence in the girls, I knew we were going to win three games. I just felt it in my heart; I just felt like we were the better team down there ¬– and we showed it.”
Now, the Bobcats turn their attention to the AHSAA 3A State Softball Tournament where a date with the Houston Academy Raiders awaits them on Friday in Oxford, Alabama. On paper, the Raiders look formidable with a 42-5-1 record according to Max Preps. The two teams met earlier this year and the Raiders narrowly won. Regardless or record, Pepper believes his team has what it takes to win it all.
“I know that’s hard to believe for some people, but I know these girls and I know what we are capable of doing, and we just still haven’t played our best game yet,” Pepper said. “This is going to be a business trip. We are going up there to win a state championship.”
No matter what, making it this far qualifies the season as a success for the Bobcats. Although they will be striving for more, the community has already embraced and rallied around them –something Pepper and his team is grateful for.
“We appreciate all the support we have received from our administration, the community and parents,” he said. “This is a big deal for Beulah high School. It’s not a softball deal. We wanted this for our school, for our community and we want them to be able to enjoy this as much we are. We want to go up there and make our community and our school proud of us.”