A pregame promise turned out to be the best decision for the Lady Bulldogs in their division showdown at North Pontotoc Thursday night.
The lineup change of Shannon Goode from the bottom to leadoff paid off for coach Shane Sanderson and New Albany, as the junior had a base-clearing hit in the ninth inning to break a three-all tie and eventually give the Lady ‘Dawgs the 9-5 win and a division championship.
“I’ve always been told that the last batter is the second leadoff, so he told me tonight that if I got two hits before the game that he would let me be leadoff, and I did, so I knew I had to step up in the position he put me in,” Goode said.
“That was huge, and you know what, Shannon has been at the bottom of the lineup since the first couple of games,” Sanderson added. “I moved her to leadoff, because that’s where I’ve wanted her, and she’s been hitting the ball hard and working. I thank the Lord she was leadoff tonight, because she made that big hit.”
New Albany opened the game scoring two runs, beginning with a double by Mallory Beaty and runs coming in off a single by Amber Mirfield and a sacrifice fly out by Jalana Cameron. The Lady Vikings answered in the bottom half, opening with three Straight hits and brining in runs off RBI doubles from Brittany Stelle and Lauren Rogers.
North Pontotoc took the lead in the second on Kaitlin Robinson’s second hit, and the Lady Vikings held the lead until the fourth, when a double by Sheneka Cullins plated Cameron to tie the game.
Neither team could break the tie in regulation, as both combined for four hits until the ninth. Sanderson credits his defense, saying he had several out of position.
“I’m proud of them, defensively,” he said. “We had a couple of errors, gave them some help, but all in all, we were a little out of place. We only had two days, moving people around, so I knew we would have some mistakes. We’ll take it.”
With two outs in the ninth, New Albany loaded the bases for Goode’s hit, which went to the fence in right field, scoring four runs.
“Well first I said a prayer, and to be completely honest, I knew what I had to do, and that was get one run in,” Goode said. “I did that, and saw it got past the right fielder, so I just kept running.”
Goode’s hit was followed by a single from Mallory Beaty and a two-run shot from Morgan Beaty, making it 9-3. The sisters combined for six hits, and Mallory’s presence was much needed on both sides, as she returned after sustaining an injury in last weekend’s New Albany Invitational.
“She’s a tough kid. If we’re ever in a brawl, I want her on my side,” Sanderson said. “She got a big hit, and we feed off of her. If everything is going good for her, it’s going good for us, and she’s grown a lot this year.”
The win gives New Albany its first division championship since moving to 4A, a feat the team has worked toward for several years.
“It’s been so long, and these girls have gone so long not really believing,” Sanderson said. “This was our goal, and now we can set another goal, so I’m excited about that. They’ve had injuries, and they’ve gotten down. It’s tough, and we’ve been through a rut, and they really woke up and saw how good they can be. We’re extremely proud.”
“I’ve never been a part of a division championship in any sport, so it’s very exciting knowing this is the first time in so many years,” Goode said.
New Albany will close the regular season next week, hosting Kossuth and Booneville on Monday and Pontotoc next Thursday night.