Wednesday, Alcovy will play its second round playoff game against Hillgrove. The Tigers have the perfect blend of experience and skill, highlighted by their strong senior class, juniors Kalia Johnson and Raven Smith, plus freshman catcher Emma Waddell.
In order to win a state championship, it comes down mostly to pitching. But you also need to be able to put up some runs when the time calls for it, and that’s the formula that propelled Alcovy to a second round playoff berth.
In the Tigers’ two victories over Lee County, each called for the defense to hold the opposition to no runs and for somebody to make a play on offense to score some runs. Although the wins obviously weren’t a one-woman show, Tyra Hollingsworth stepped up big and batted in each winning run for Alcovy (2-1 Game one, 3-2 Game two).
The defense played spectacularly well and Johnson pitched two great games back-to-back. In the second game, Johnson seemed a little fatigued. In the first and third innings of the second game, Johnson put herself in tough spots. But with her ability and stout defense behind her she was able to get out of both. In the first inning, with two outs Johnson walked two straight batters, but struck out the next before allowing any runs. In the third inning, Lee did all of its damage scoring two runs in the inning, but it could have been much worse.
With two on and just one out, it looked as if Lee wasn’t done piling on the runs, but they were. They just didn’t know it yet. Soon after walking a Lee batter (which was one of many questionable calls on the night that drew the crowd into a frenzy), Waddell gunned down a Lee baserunner attempting to steal second. Then Jordyn White – who came in to replace Aubree Thacker before Thacker came back to make some great defensive plays herself – made a great jumping catch to get the final out of the inning at second.
The Tigers do have the tools to compete for a championship, as evidenced by their grit and grind wins against Lee County, but the only thing that is concerning is Alcovy’s depth at pitcher.
Having gone to many Alcovy games this year, it’s safe to say Kalia is a really good pitcher, but she’s also Alcovy’s only go-to option. Yes she’s young and promising, but pitching these back-to-backs can be taxing on the body and Johnson thrives on being able to throw hard and fast. Having one more pitcher to go to would put Alcovy over the top. Even Michael Jordan needed a backup shooting guard. However, as long as Johnson can stay strong and keep Alcovy within a few scores, everything should be fine.
Alcovy’s offense on another note wasn’t as good as you’d expect it to be against Lee. There weren’t many strikeouts and the Tigers were making contact, but many times they were hitting it to players in position to make a play.
With the exception of a hit or two even when Alcovy came up clutch, they hit the ball to players that could make a play. Some hits took nasty hops and got past the infield, others were dropped or bobbled and the runner was already on base by the time the defender went to make the throw. Capitalizing off the other team’s mistakes is the name of the game and it’s one of the Tigers’ greatest strengths as they have been doing it all season.
The offense may have been stagnant due to the fact that the team hadn’t played an official game for 11 days. If it was just rust then Alcovy’s offense should have no problems going forward, this is the same team that scored 16 runs to win the region championship game. The top of their lineup is strong and the bottom has players that can hit at times or bunt when the situation calls for it.
If the Tigers struggle again they may have to manufacture runs with bunts and hit and runs. They have the pieces to pull something like that off, but their hitters are so good it’s hard to imagine them not having a bounce back series against Hillgrove when the two faceoff on Wednesday.