BENTON — The Hixson Lady Wildcats have seen all they want of Aubrie Bowman and the Polk County Lady Wildcats for a while. Bowman cracked a homer and two doubles and Polk stepped into the Region 4 championship game with a 9-1 win Monday afternoon.
The victory guarantees Polk at least two more games and a win Wednesday against Chattanooga Central will ensure the Lady Wildcats carry home field advantage into Friday’s sub-state game.
Wednesday’s first pitch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the Lady Wildcats Softball Complex in Benton.
“I’d call that win good pitching, good defense and timely hitting. When our first two hitters get on, we can do some damage. Our 1-2-3-4 did a good job. We hit the ball well today,” said a smiling Polk County coach Bill Triplett.
Winning pitcher Hannah Triplett scattered five hits in a complete game effort against the Hixson version of the Lady Wildcats. Triplett fanned three and allowed no walks but hit one batter.
“The girls played well from top to bottom, then you turn it over to Hannah. She pitches out of trouble, day-in and day-out. That’s been our M-O all year. We score five or six runs and turn it over to our pitching and play defense,” said the Polk coach.
Triplett was also part of the group of four that picked up seven of Polk’s eight hits. Lead-off hitter Bowman picked up three of those hits with a double off the top of the center-field fence in the first and a homer and another two-bagger in the third.
Kaitlyn Williams picked up two hits and Breanna Muller and Triplett had base knocks and Ashlyn Johnson helped out with a hit and sparkling defensive work in left field.
Johnson’s catch on a long fly ball to the fence in the top of the seventh threw cold water on a Hixson team that was beginning to heat up with runners on second and third. Hixson scored its only run of the game on the deep sacrifice.
“We’ve got Ashlyn Johnson running through fences making plays. Our team isn’t pretty. We’re not a pretty team, we are a blue collar team,” said an impressed Triplett. “What Ashlyn did took a big inning for them out of the equation.”
Polk took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first on Bowman’ s double. Bowman and Muller scored on Triplett’s single to right.
The Lady Wildcats put the game away in the fourth, tacking six runs on the board beginning with Bowman’s lead-off home run over the left-field fence. Williams followed with a single, bringing on a Hixson pitching change. The circle swap produced one out before four walks, two errors and a Bowman RBI double put Polk County out front 8-0.
Polk had chances to close it out early, scoring one more run on one hit in the fourth. Williams led off with a single to left. After a Hixson error a walk to Hannah Withrow loaded the bases and a second base on balls, to Emily Bates made it 9-0. A pair of strikeouts ended the inning.
The Benton ladies had a chance to put the game away in the fifth but left the winning run stranded at second.
Muller led off the sixth with a single for Polk and a hit batter with two outs loaded the bases. Once again the Lady Wildcats were unable to slam the door after a pop fly to the catcher for out No. 3.
Triplett gave up a lead-off single in the top of the seventh, but then got three ground balls to lock up the win.
“We had a couple of chances to end it early, but we swung at bad pitches. We had a chance to end it in five and a chance to end it in six but a win’s a win,” said Triplett. “That’s four playoff wins we’ve had, and now we’re playing for the region championship on Wednesday, and we’re going all the way to Friday.”
POLK COUNTY 9, HIXSON 1
Hixson 000 001 0 — 1 5 4
Polk County 206 100 x — 9 8 2
WP: Hannah Triplett. LP: Jessica Green. HR: Aubrie Bowman (PC). 2B: Green, Ciarra Taylor 2 (H); Bowman 2 (PC). Highlights: Taylor 2-3, Virginia Rivers RBI (H); Bowman 2-3 2 RBIs, 2 runs Kaitlyn Williams 2-4, 2 runs, Triplett 1-3 RBI, Emily Bates RBI (PC). Records: Polk County 25-6.