Top-ranked White Plains downed No. 7 Saks 15-3 in five innings to capture the AHSAA Class 3A North Central Regional championship game Saturday afternoon at Liberty Park.
But Saks, which worked its way back into title contention with back-to-back wins earlier in the day, would just as soon have conceded the regional championship to White Plains without playing.
Saks coach Mike Tucker, citing fatigue and risk of injury, attempted to forfeit the contest before it ever got started.
But after a lengthy meeting between both team’s coaches and AHSAA administrators in the infield, they decided to play ball.
Once play began, White Plains emerged victorious as it had in the previous six meetings between the squads this season.
“I really wanted to play. We’ve worked all year for this,” White Plains coach Rachel Ford said. “I’m proud of my girls and we had a lot of fans here. I wanted to play, but if they would’ve told me he was forfeiting, I would’ve accepted that as well.”
White Plains’ freshman Anna Snider earned the bench-emptying win for White Plains.
She got plenty of run support. Kiley Ponder was 4-for-4, adding a solo shot in the top of the second. Mikayla Owen went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer, a double and four RBIs.
Snider also helped out her own cause, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs and a double.
Senior shortstop Jordan Coleman, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, was walked intentionally in all four of her plate appearances against Saks.
“Last year, they were the ones that put us out (in the state tournament). Everybody knows it,” Coleman said. “They’re our biggest rivalry in the county. They’re our biggest rivalry in the area. If you put us head-to-head, we’re as close as you could ever get. We’re just hungry for a win. We want that state title and that’s what we’re here working for.”
Saks had a short turnaround after the first day of the tournament which didn’t end for them until early Saturday morning.
They returned at 2:30 a.m. and left five hours later to travel the hour-plus drive back to Birmingham for the tournament’s second day.
“We wanted to forfeit,” Tucker said. “But the state told us we had to play it. Our goal from Day 1 was to make it to state.”
White Plains opened the day with a 7-4 victory against No. 5 Winfield which downed Saks in a 1-0 ballgame in both team’s tournament opener. Coleman delivered two home runs in that contest, going a perfect 4-for-4 with four RBIs.
“Since last year, coach told me I was the team’s leader, Coleman said. “I had to step up and do my part. We needed some security runs. I was just pumped up and that’s what came.”
Amber Greenwood went 1-for-3 with an RBI against and Sophia Taylor was 1-for-4 and scored a run against Winfield.
White Plains will face No. 6 Geneva in the opening round of the state tournament at 9 a.m. Thursday at Lagoon Park in Montgomery.
Saks ace Taylor West sat out against White Plains after hurling her team to a pair of big victories earlier Saturday.
First, she struck out five in a one-hit, shutout performance to lead her team to a 6-0 win against Carbon Hill. She turned in a no-hitter, striking out 13 and allowing one unearned run in a 6-1 defeat of Winfield to get back into the championship bracket. She also added a two-run home run to straight away center.
Tucker asked West if she wanted to take a one-inning break before the start of the sixth.
“I usually put her somewhere in the field when she’s pitching but she said, ‘Can I just go to the dugout?’ We were up 6-0, but we’re in an elimination game against a good team. That shows how much trust she has in her teammates.”
Freshman Daisy Cornejo nearly hit for the cycle with a three-run home run, a double and a triple against Carbon Hill. Kelly Kilgore doubled, Kendra Prater added a double and an RBI, and West knocked in a run.
Cobb struck out four in two innings of no-hit work.
Against Winfield, Rebecca Bowen was 2-for-3 with a double. West was 2-for-3 with three RBIs and Kilgore was 3-for-3 with a double.
Kendra Prater was 2-for-2 and Cornejo homered against White Plains.
Saks went 2-1 on Friday, losing 1-0 to Winfield but beating Holly Pond 2-0 and Glencoe 3-0.
West was the big star of the day, winning all three games. She struck out 27 batters over three games and allowed just seven hits.
West also hit a 3-run home run against Glencoe.
Tiffany Springer and Raegan Nunez each had an RBI against Holly Pond.
Saks will face Trinity to start the state tournament Thursday at 10:30 a.m. in its fourth-straight appearance in the state tournament.
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575.