It’s scary to think what Mishayla Byrd could be capable of once her ankle returns to full strength.
The Alcoa High School junior roped a pinch-hit double into the left field corner with the bases loaded and no one out in the bottom of the sixth in a District 4AA winner’s bracket semifinal on Tuesday at Alcoa.
The two runs Byrd pushed home lifted the Lady Tornadoes to a 4-2 win over Loudon and into Wednesday’s winner’s bracket final, a win there moving Alcoa into next week’s region tournament. The Lady Tornadoes (18-7) fully expect to be there, and beyond. They don’t speak of Murfreesboro and the state softball tournament in hushed tones, Byrd said. That’s been this season’s destination right from the start.
“That’s our goal, especially the seniors,” Byrd said. “They are really dedicated this year.”
Byrd’s high ankle sprain two weeks ago took a valuable bat out of the Alcoa order for a stretch. The slugging third baseman was only released by doctors to play early Tuesday afternoon. Her return affords Alcoa coach Paul Talley six players with better than .300 batting averages. Senior outfielder Cayla Cannon (.444) and first baseman Erin Cooper (.403) are way up there.
A top six that includes Byrd (.370), junior Taylor Green (.365), sophomore shortstop Tiffanie Moore (.358) and senior Morgan Meadows (.348) gives the Lady Tornadoes a batting order capable of producing runs up and down the lineup. Cooper, Byrd and Moore each have better than .500 slugging percentages. Cooper’s four home runs, seven doubles and team-leading 34 RBI would play in any park.
“If one player gets down, everybody else picks them up,” Moore said.
It’s a lot to work with. The key, Talley said, if the Lady Tornadoes are serious about reaching the Class AA tournament in Murfreesboro in two week’s time, is continuing to work.
“I told them at the beginning of the year going to the state tournament was our goal,” he said. “We’ve got players from top to bottom that can hit the ball.”
A healthy Alcoa has more than enough talent to reach Spring Fling.
“We just have to take it one game at a time,” Moore said, “but that’s our goal.”
An unforeseen plus this season, Talley said, has been a two-player pitching rotation that’s kept opponents off balance. Meadows and junior Taylor Green have both thrown 60-plus innings. Both have collected eight wins. Green has fanned 68 batters, Meadows 62.
“There’s such a contrast between the two,” Talley said, “and, at the same time, they compliment each other.”
Tuesday was Byrd’s first live action since the injury. After the game-winning hit, she was promptly lifted for a pinch runner, Meadows closing out the Lady Redskins half an inning later for the win.
“I told (the coaching staff) I got released (Tuesday) and I would do whatever they needed me to do,” Byrd said. “I got up there, took a deep breath and relaxed.”
While Byrd wasn’t at full strength Tuesday, Talley said he had no doubt she could drive at least a run home.
“Oh, she can rip it,” he said. “I thought maybe she was due, karma and all that.”
Her swing’s awfully sweet, too.