Hermleigh defeats Ira to win regional title
ABILENE — Hermleigh’s Brishaya Sneed and Brianna Robertson will remember the Region 1-1A championship game for a long time.
Sneed and Robertson each hit grand slam home runs during a 13-run fifth inning to give Hermleigh a 19-3 win over Ira to advance to the Class 1A state tournament — the first state appearance for the program.
“We came a long way in seven years,” Hermleigh head coach Heath Gibson said. “I never dreamed this would happen. We had a lot of work to do, but the players did the work.”
Ira head coach Dave Hanes said his team may have had a case of nerves early in the game, but he credited Hermleigh for its victory.
“Starting the first inning with a couple of errors and allowing three runs put us in catch-up mode,” Hanes said. “I was proud of the way we responded in the bottom of the first inning to get back into the game. Being a relatively young team and the first time at a regional final, I knew the players were going to be nervous.”
The Lady Cardinals (19-1) sent 17 batters to the plate during the fifth inning.
“After going through the lineup twice, the players battled and broke through,” Gibson said. “I never seen high school players hit grand slams in the same inning. Brianna’s home run was a shot off the scoreboard (in left field). When Brishaya hit her grand slam, I didn’t realize that the bases were loaded.”
Sneed said she hit a waist-high fastball down the middle.
“It was very exciting,” Sneed said. “I never hit a grand slam before. It was a great feeling. It was a perfect pitch to hit. I didn’t know, but looked up and saw the ball go over the fence and said, ‘Oh my, I did it.’ It’s also a great feeling going to the state tournament.”
Robertson said her feeling was indescribable when the ball went off the scoreboard.
“I felt amazing,” Robertson said. “We worked for this all season. Everything feels like a dream. I have never been to the state tournament. This was a dream that came true.”
Hermleigh scored three runs in the top of the first inning. Robertson started the inning by reaching base on an error and later scored on an error. Kelsey Digby, who reached on an error, scored on Lillyan Digby’s single. Lillian Digby scored on a groundout.
Ira (8-11) answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Lindsey Womack walked and Kylie Miller hit a single to put runners on the corners. Womack scored on a groundout and Miller scored on a single by Madison Peterson.
Ira’s Reaghan Ruiz retired all three batters in the second inning. The game was delayed by lightning for 45 minutes with Ira’s Karina Cowen at the plate.
“We sat in the bus and focused on what they needed to do when the game resumed,” Gibson said. “The players were confident, came out ready to play and played at a level that they are capable.”
“The lightning delay seemed to affect us more than Hermleigh,” Hanes said. “We came out flat and they were able to take advantage.”
Hermleigh increased its lead to 6-2 in the fourth when Amanda Long had an infield hit, stole second and scored on Sneed’s single. Sneed scored on Morgan’s Kariainen’s base hit and Kami Smith scored on an error.
In the fifth, Hermleigh loaded the bases before Sneed’s RBI-single.
Three batters later, Robertson hit a grand slam. Lillian Digby scored on an error before the Lady Cardinals loaded the bases again and Sneed hit her grand slam. The final run came on an RBI-single by Robertson.
“I told then players between innings we need to score at least four runs and we did that with the first four batters,” Gibson said. “A team doesn’t have many 13-run innings, but I don’t mind to have one every once in a while.”
Ira scored one run in the fifth. Miller reached on a fielder’s choice, followed by consecutive singles from Breauna Hall and Peterson. The game ended on a double play.
“Every batter in our lineup can hit the ball,” Gibson said. “We have a good lineup with no automatic outs.”
Hanes said Hermleigh will be a competitive team at the state tournament, but his team had a good year, despite the loss.
“Hermleigh is a quality team and coach Gibson will have them ready to play at the state tournament,” Hanes said. “If they get on a roll like they did against us, they will be tough to beat. We just didn’t have our best defensive effort to support (Ruiz). The girls fought to the last out and while we might have lost the game, they never quit on the team. That tells me a lot about their character and we’re looking forward to getting back here next year.”
Hermleigh 300 3(13)—19 17 1
Ira 200 01 —3 6 8
Hermleigh hitters — Brianna Robertson single, double, home run, 5 RBIs; Brishaya Sneed 2 singles, home run, 5 RBIs; Kami Smith 2 singles, 1 RBI; Lilliyan Digby single, double, 1 RBI; Morgan Digby double; Amanda Long 1 single, 1 RBI; Kelsey Digby single; Aaliyah Sneed 1 single; Morgan Kariainen 1 single, 1 RBI.
Ira hitters — Madison Peterson 2 singles, 2 RBIs; Breauna Hall 2 singles, 1 RBI; Lindsey Womack single; Kylie Miller single.
Hermleigh pitcher —Kelsey Digby 6 hits, 3 runs, 3 strikeouts, 3 walks in 5 innings.
Ira pitcher — Reaghan Ruiz 15 hits, 19 runs in 5 innings.