The way Game 2 of the Class 2A softball championship was going Thursday, it looked like the outcome would come down to who would blink first in a pitching duel between Gray Collegiate’s Taylor Corley and Latta’s Maddie Berry.
Luckily for the War Eagles, they had Brooke Tranum on their side.
The senior ripped a single to right field to score Brooklinn Thomas from second base in the bottom of the sixth inning for the dramatic 2-1 victory and sweep of the best-of-three state championship series.
It’s the first state title in girls softball for Gray Collegiate. It’s the school’s third state title this school year to go with football and boys basketball. The War Eagles baseball team will face Andrew Jackson on Saturday with a chance to add to the trophy case.
“I knew it was going to be a fight. I told the girls they weren’t going to lay down. That’s a good team over there. That kid pitched a great game,” Gray Collegiate coach Doug Frye said. “I’m just proud of my girls. They’ve been working since August for this. They deserve it.”
Tranum, a College of Charleston signee, knew something had to happen with the top of the order leading off the home half of the sixth. Thomas led off the inning with a single to center. She stole second after Gray was unable to get down a sacrifice bunt, setting the stage for Tranum.
Berry got two quick strikes on Tranum. After fouling off a pitch, Tranum took an outside pitch and drove it through the right side, easily scoring Thomas from second.
“We work on how to do our job here and that wasn’t the big hit I would have wanted, but it was the hit that got my job done,” Tranum said. “That’s all I could ask for right now. Obviously, it worked.”
That little cushion is all Corley needed. The junior hit a batter with two outs, then got a slow roller to Maddox Long at third base to end the masterful performance on the mound.
Corley allowed a run on a solo home run by Jena Stutler in the third inning. The junior retired 15 of the final 17 batters she faced. She allowed four hits with eight strikeouts and a walk in the 80-pitch performance.
“It’s an unreal feeling,” Corley said. “It’s pure joy I was able to come out here and pitch for such an amazing team. They had my back on defense. I felt good, even after the home run. I didn’t really feel uncomfortable. I just kept pitching like I knew I could.”
Corley allowed one run over 14 innings pitched. She allowed eight hits with 14 strikeouts and three walks.
The biggest turning point for Gray (25-4) might have come in the second inning. The Vikings loaded the bases with a walk and two infield singles before Corley struck out the next three batters.
“Taylor kind of overpowered them, to be honest with you,” Frye said of the second inning. “We stayed poised through the whole thing and never panicked.”
Berry was almost as good for Latta (25-4). She allowed two earned runs on five hits with nine strikeouts and no walks. But Thomas scored both runs after reaching on base hits, the first coming in the first inning when she scored on a Long double.
It was a disappointing end to a successful season for the Vikings.
“Obviously, we wanted the whole thing, but not many teams and players make it here,” Latta coach Jenny Melton said. “The fact we made it here, especially where we came from last year, I couldn’t be prouder. Tonight, we came ready to play. I couldn’t ask for anything better from them.”
WP: Taylor Corley. LP: Maddie Berry. Hitters: GC - Brooklinn Thomas 2-3, 2 runs scored; Brooke Tranum RBI; Maddox Long 2B, RBI. L - Jena Stutler HR; Elizabeth Brown 2-3.