MONTGOMERY ---- It took nearly seven hours to complete, but a long day turned into Long Day.
Despite two weather delays, the G.W. Long softball team earned its second consecutive state title late Thursday night at Lagoon Park, taking a 3-0 win over Hatton in the Class 2A state championship game.
The game finished at 11 p.m., more than six and a half hours after it started because of a 4 hour, 1 minute rain delay and another 49 minute lightning delay.
The victory not only finished Long’s softball second straight crown, but capped a double good night for G.W. Long. Roughly 12 hours earlier, Long’s baseball team won its third straight title, beating Westbrook Christian.
In going back-to-back in both baseball and softball, Long became the first program in AHSAA history to repeat in both sports in consecutive years.
The two programs also went coast-to-coast as the No. 1 ranked team in the state this year in the Alabama Sports Writers Association poll.
G.W. Long’s softball team finished with a 53-3 record, a winning percentage of .946, the fifth best percentage in AHSAA history. The 1997 Hoover team that went 63-1 has the top percentage at .984.
Long also finished the season unbeaten against Class 2A opponents as the only losses came to Class 6A Northview (twice) and to 3A Alabama Christian. The Rebels also beat both teams.
Senior standout Libby Baker dominated the championship game win over Hatton, firing a one-hit shutout with 15 strikeouts. She walked four. The lone hit was a dribbler off the end of the bat that went halfway down the first-base line as the rain began before the first delay. She also hit a solo homer in the game.
It was the second straight day Baker blanked the No. 2 ranked Hornets. She fired 13 strikeouts in a one-hitter during a 2-0 semifinal win.
The Rebel senior, a Troy signee, earned tournament MVP honors. Teammates Makenna Long, who drove in seven runs in a semifinal win, and Savanna Wood also earned all-tournament team honors.
Long had only four hits in the game, but three drove in runs – Wood drove in the first with a single in the first inning, Baker hit a homer for the second and Long drove in the third with a double in the sixth.
Before the rains halted the game, the Rebels scored in the bottom of the first. With one out, Emmaline Hughes walked and Baker hit a grounder to the third baseman, who tried to get a force Hughes at second, but wasn’t in time. The play left runners at first and second, but only temporarily.
As G.W. Long head coach Nikki Long talked to the home plate umpire to ask if the ball hit Baker and also about utilizing a courtesy runner, both runners stepped off the bases while time, according to the umpire, was still in. After the three officials discussed the situation, Baker was called out at first, while Hughes remained at second base.
Wood followed with a RBI single, scoring Hughes for a 1-0 lead.
After both pitchers retired the side in the second inning, Hatton’s Brayden Mitchell reached on an infield single and Emma Grantham was about to bat when AHSAA administration halted the game at 4:56 p.m. because of rain and lightning.
After play had resumed, G.W. Long would add to its lead in the fourth inning.
When Hatton elected to pitch to Baker, the national career home record holder, the Troy signee made the Hornets pay. She belted a 1-2 pitch out over the right-center field fence, making it 2-0 G.W. Long. It was her 37th homer of the season and the 87th of her career.
Pitcher Ashley Berryman got the next three batters out to retire the side. Baker then retired the Hornets, allowing just a walk, while striking out two. The two strikeouts gave her 11 for the game through five innings.
G.W. Long’s AbbyKate Chancey singled to lead off the bottom of the fifth, but Berryman got two straight strikeouts. That brought up Long’s Hayden Hughes, but her chance was put on hold as the game went into a lightning delay.
When play resumed again, Baker continued to dominate Hatton hitters, retiring all six batters she faced, the last four on strikeouts.
The Rebels added an insurance run in the sixth with Long’s RBI double that scored Baker, who walked to open the inning.
The 3-0 deficit probably looked like a million-run deficit to Hatton the way Baker was pitching.
G.W. Long 13, Collinsville 3: Makenna Long hit a three-run homer and a grand slam homer to account for seven runs batted in to pace the Rebels’ opening win Thursday that pushed the defending champions into the finals.
Savanna Wood added a three-run homer as G.W. Long scored 10 of its 13 runs on homers.
Libby Baker added a two-run single. Baker, the national home run record holder with 86 career homers, was also walked three times, one intentional. Morgan Ferguson had a pinch-hit RBI single for the Rebels’ final run to end the game on the run-rule in the sixth inning. That hit came two batters after Makenna Long’s grand slam homer.
Emmaline Hughes and Hannah Segars both had two hits each for the Rebels.
Wood went all six innings, striking six and walking two. She gave up five hits, including solo homers to Autumn Barkley and Brittan Rivera-Free. An error after a walk scored the other Collinsville run.