|Debs punch their ticket to Tennessee|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
July 21, 2004 - It took a game longer than they had wanted, but the Hopkins County Debs beat an old nemesis Tuesday night and punched their ticket to the Dixie World Series later this month.
After losing 1-0 to Liberty County in the first game of the championship series, Hopkins County responded in the nightcap by knocking out 11 hits in a 10-2 victory that secured a berth in the Dixie Debs World Series, beginning July 31 in Jackson, Tenn.
In two of the three previous seasons, Liberty County had beaten Hopkins and advanced to the next level. But, the Debs beat Liberty 10-1 on Sunday to advance to the championship series unbeaten, where they just needed to win one of the two games Tuesday night.
"I've been doing this four years," said Hopkins County head coach Jeff Box. "This team beat us out two years and went to the World Series two years instead of us. Now, it's Hopkins County's turn."
In the opener, Liberty County pitcher Sara Radar turned in a magnificent performance, limiting Hopkins County to three hits. She struck out 10 and fielded five balls cleanly, accounting for 15 of the team's 21 outs.
Hopkins' hits came through a seventh-inning double by Kaneisha Johnson, a third-inning infield single by Holly Franks, and a first-inning single by Jennifer Moreland, who caught all 14 innings in the doubleheader.
Hopkins' trio of pitchers - Cassie McClendon, Angela Franks and Holly Franks - were almost as good as Radar. Liberty scored one run on Ralissa Jones' lead-off double in the third and and RBI single by Charlie Sampson. They had baserunners in six of the seven innings, but the Hopkins pitchers were able to work out of trouble the rest of the time.
In the nightcap, though, it was all Hopkins County.
The Debs scored five runs in the top of the first to take back the momentum. They added single runs in the second, third and sixth innings and put up a two-spot in the fourth.
Meanwhile, Hopkins' same trio of hurlers shut down Liberty County on six hits and were backed up by errorless defense.
McClendon went 3-for-4, while Amanda Haygood, NeNe Hynson, Johnson and Angela Franks each had a pair of hits, and Shaunda Box drove in a pair of runs.
Haygood got things started for the Debs as the leadoff hitter in the first, singling up the middle. Moreland followed with a single, and Hynson reached on a ground ball. Haygood scored on a wild pitch as did Hynson for the first two runs of the game. Box walked, Johnson reached on a fielder's choice and they both scored on Angela Franks' single and Betsy Blount's grounder.
In the second, Moreland walked, advanced on an error and scored on Box's infield ground ball to give Hopkins a 6-0 advantage.
Liberty County scored in the bottom of the second on Jessie Walters' double and Stephanie Beard's RBI single. But, then McClendon and Franks combined to sit down 12 straight Liberty batters.
In the meantime, Hopkins scored a run in the third on Kortney Stageberg's RBI single up the middle; two runs in the fourth on singles by Hynson, McClendon and Franks; and another run in the sixth on Hynson's lead-off triple and Box's sacrifice fly.
Coach Box said the second game was more reminiscent of how the team has played this season, winning their district tournament then the state championship.
"That's how we played our season this year," he said. "The first game? I don't have a clue what happened.
This is how we normally hit. Our defense was good. These are my girls, and we're proud of them."