With tickets to the Class AA State Tournament securely tucked into their back pockets, the Cave City Cavewomen and Salem Lady Greyhounds had just one little item to take care of before they left for the state playoffs in Nashville; the championship of the Region 3 Tournament May 3 at the Cougar Sports Complex in Brockwell. After all, the Lady Greyhounds had been in this position the past two seasons, finishing runner-up on both occasions after winning the title three years ago.
While the Lady Hounds are old hands in this regional and state tourney setting, having been to the last three state rounds, the Cavewomen were making their first trip to the state playoffs and were battling for their first regional crown to boot.
As it turned out, the old pros were the victors in the regional title game, as Salem edged past Cave City (18-3) 4-3 to capture the tourney crown.
The loss snapped Cave City's 13-game winning streak in the process.
The Lady Hounds rode another outstanding performance on the hill from Leslie Taylor to victory. Taylor fanned 10 while walking two and giving up five hits en route to being named the tournament MVP.
Her counterpart in the other dugout, pitcher Courtney Lewis, also turned in an outstanding showing in the regional on her way to All-Tournament honors. Against Salem, Lewis struck out three while allowing two free passes and eight hits, five of which came in the third inning when the Lady Hounds scored all of their runs to erase a 3-0 deficit.
The Cavewomen jumped on top early, plating two runs in the home half of the first inning.
Rebekah Roebuck (two hits) started things off for Cave City with a single, followed by a base hit from Christine Curtis. With runners in scoring position, Leah Fugett delivered big-time by jacking a two-RBI triple to the fence in right that brought Roebuck and Curtis in to score, giving Cave City a quick 2-0 lead. Fugett earned All-Tournament honors for her play.
The Lady Hounds got a runner to third in the top of the second, but Lewis got a pair of pop-outs to end the frame unharmed.
Cave City added one run to its tally in the bottom of the second on an RBI-single from Roebuck that plated Amie Willmuth, extending the Cavewomen lead to 3-0. Willmuth had reached base after dropping a ball into short center for Cave City's first hit of the second.
If Salem (21-5) has proved anything this year, it's that when things look bleak, have no fear; a rally must be just around the corner.
This corner turned out to be the visitors' half of the third inning.
Bailey Wagner (two hits) got the Lady Hound machine fired up in the third, legging out an infield hit to give Salem its third base runner of the afternoon.
Brett Hall followed by dropping down a perfect bunt, moving Wagner to third in the process.
Leslie Taylor (two hits) then used a patient eye at the plate to go along with the fire she tosses on the hill by drawing a walk to juice the sacks for the Lady Greyhounds.
Carrie Johnson then proved she was a worthy selection for the All-Regional team by stepping into the box and driving a pitch to left that plated Wagner and Brett Hall for Salem's first two runs of the game.
Chelsea Taylor, also an All-Tournament team member, then brought Leslie Taylor home on a sacrifice fly.
Not quite done, Lairen Hall then smacked an infield hit that allowed Johnson to slide in safely to home plate, giving Salem a 4-3 lead. A lead that would hold up, giving the Lady Greyhounds the regional tournament title.
Tabitha Hall added a hit for the victorious Lady Greyhounds, whose 21 wins set a school record for softball wins this year.
Tera Zeigler made the All-Regional team for Salem, while Jordan Witt earned All-Tournament honors for Cave City.
Melbourne's Olivia Morris, along with Viola's Jamie Dailey and Sarah Taylor from ICC, also played their way to selections on the All-Regional squad.
The Lady Hounds advanced to the finals with a 10-0 hammering of Cedar Ridge May 2 in the semis.
While Salem pounded out 13 hits on the afternoon, Leslie Taylor handcuffed the Lady T-Wolves, giving up just three hits in seven innings of work, mowing down 15 Cedar Ridge batters with strikeouts in the process.
Brett Hall and Johnson notched three hits apiece for the Lady Hounds, with Tabitha Hall chipping in with a pair of hits.
Salem edged past the White County Central Lady Bears 2-1 in opening-round action May 1.
Leslie Taylor earned the win, allowing just four hits while walking seven and fanning eight.
Chelsea Taylor and Tera Zeigler had two hits each for Salem.
Cave City opened regional play with a 4-0 shutout of the Viola lady Longhorns May 1, and then earned a trip to the final with a 9-4 win over fellow 2AA-East member Midland in the semi-final round May 2.