The first three times Benjamin Russell met Opelika on the softball diamond, the Wildcats came out on top but all three were fairly competitive games. Wednesday was a completely different story.
From the get go, Benjamin Russell looked dominating and it never let up, winning a 17-0 three-inning affair to claim the Class 6A Area 6 championship. It was the Wildcats’ second area championship in a row.
“Our past games playing them were really important, but this game, this was it,” Benjamin Russell senior Asia McWaters said. “We won our area tournament last year, and we didn’t expect anything less this year. So we really wanted to come out and we were excited to play. We knew we were going to win this one.”
McWaters immediately got things started for the Wildcats as she was hit by a pitch to lead off the top of the first. She stole second and after one out, Haylee Hunter drove her in with a single. Taylor McVey joined Hunter on the bases by drawing a walk. Then BRHS’ offense hit its stride. Ryann Ruffin and Na’Skia Russell had back-to-back RBI singles then Ruffin scored on a passed ball, and Brooke Bowden drove in a run with a groundout to put the Wildcats ahead 5-0 before the inning’s end.
Benjamin Russell wasn’t thwarted by a pair of weather delays as it kept pouring in the runs.
In the top of the second, McWaters, Taylor Harris and Hunter hit three consecutive singles to start the frame, and McVey smashed a two-run homer.
“There for a little while, we talked with them a lot about hitting defensively and having intensity,” Benjamin Russell coach Jessica Johnson said. “When they were going into the box, it was more like they were trying not to get out than they were trying to get something done. Now I think their mentality is starting to change a little bit.”
Benjamin Russell racked up 13 hits in the victory and all but two batters were credited with at least one hit. McWaters, Hunter, McVey and Emma Tapley all had two hits apiece. McWaters led the team with three RBIs, and McVey and Bowden each drove in two.
“We’ve worked a lot in practice with taking better pitching and not missing the strikes and swinging at the bad stuff,” McWaters said. “I’d pitch and Taylor Harris would pitch to our batters, and we’d just rotate and worked on hitting the good pitches.”
In addition to strong hitting, Benjamin Russell got a three-inning perfect game from Harris, who needed just 35 pitches to earn the win. She struck out four.
With the victory, BRHS also punched its ticket to regionals where it will earn one of the top seeds.
“That’s big,” Johnson said. “There for a while, we weren’t getting to host (the area tournament), much less winning it so to do that two years in a row, I think, is big. Everybody is on the same track and everybody seems to have a common goal.”