TUSCALOOSA – In basketball, Spring Garden’s Kerstin Bryant got a lot done that didn’t show in statistics. Softball?
Statistics don’t hide her.
Bryant’s pitching and bat led the way as the Panthers completed a three-game romp through the North Central Regional winners’ bracket Saturday, beating Appalachian 10-1 to reach next week’s state tournament.
Spring Garden (26-16) will play Ragland on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at Montgomery’s Lagoon Park.
It marks Spring Garden’s fifth state tourney appearance in the fast-pitch era and third in a row.
The Panthers, playing in the North Central Regional instead of the North this year because of reclassification, blew in to Tuscaloosa and blew out. They scored 29 runs over 19 innings in victories over Berry, Addison and Appalachian.
It’s no shock. The Panthers’ deceiving record reflects a schedule full of higher classified opponents.
“I see it paying off a lot,” Spring Garden coach Ann Welsh said. “The reason we do that mostly is because of the level of pitching. We need to see faster, somebody that has a lot of spin movement, seam to seam.
“We’ve seen enough of that through the year that I feel like we adjust well to any kind of pitching. This weekend, we were really on our game.”
No one moreso than Bryant.
Bryant allowed one run in three regional games at Tuscaloosa’s Bowers Park. Spring Garden beat Berry 10-0 and Addison 9-0 on Friday.
Bryant struck out eight batters, allowed 15 hits and one walk through the tournament. At the plate, she went a combined 6-for-11 with seven RBIs, including a two-run single Saturday.
Spring Garden basketball coach Ricky Austin lauded Bryant’s leadership and floor-game presence throughout the Panthers’ run to the 1A state final this past season. In softball, she’s the lead presence.
“I’ve been playing since I was, like, 5 or 6,” said Bryant, a junior. “I just love the game and love my teammates. I just thank God for letting me go to play every day.”
From the circle, Bryant doesn’t bring dominant speed or a killer changeup, but she’s developed spin that makes her hard to hit solidly.
“A lot of people can’t hit it, especially on her screwball,” senior catcher Kalista Free said. “The spin on it is so much.”
Bryant enjoyed pitching with a comfortable lead all weekend in Tuscaloosa, and Saturday was no different.
The Panthers got it started with a three-run first inning. Bryant, Payton Traffanstedt and Katie Williams singled.
Bryant’s hard-hit grounder took a hot bounce toward the hole and skipped off Appalachian shortstop Kylee Davis’ glove to plate two more runs in the fourth, making it 5-1.
Abbey Steward’s grounder and singles from Madison Jennings and Payton McGinnis drove in three runs in the fifth, and Spring Garden added two in the sixth on Williams’ single and Jennings’ sacrifice fly.
“It seems like our bats are coming around, we’re feeding off each other and not leaving runners on base,” Welsh said. “We’re moving when they’re on base, and that’s something we’ve worked on in practice a lot.”
Woodland fell 14-0 to Fayetteville in the elimination bracket to finish the season 14-13.
Jaycee Lovvorn doubled. Madison Mitchell and Lacey Prince each hit a single.
The Bobcats will lose four seniors in Prince, Rebecca Robertson, Hannah Wheat and Erica Stewart, but the returning group includes one junior and the rest sophomores or younger. Both pitchers are eighth-graders.
“I couldn’t be prouder of them for making it this far,” Woodland coach Kasey Swafford said. “I feel like, had things been different, the team we just played was very beatable, and we should have taken care of business, but the errors prevailed in that game.
“We had highs and lows, overall, but at the end of the day, for a young group of kids, I feel like they responded well to adversity and the challenges they’ve been faced with. They’re going to keep coming back year after year, and the future is bright because we have such a young talented group and more coming up.”
The Bulldogs lost 7-0 to Thorsby in the elimination bracket to finish 14-17.
Pitcher Kayli Olds struck out two batters and allowed one hit, and Regan Grovenstein fanned three while allowing one hit.
Madison Heath doubled. Olds, Lindsey Lambert, Jasey Langley and Alexis McMahan singled.
The senior class includes Lambert, McMahan and Jessica Isbell, but the Bulldogs will return one junior, one sophomore, two freshmen, five eighth-graders and a seventh-grader.
“We had a good year,” Ranburne coach Samantha Long said. “We didn’t finish like we wanted. It started out good. We had a great year, great team.”
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