Three seasons ago, the Commerce Tigers were struggling to find wins, but three years later, the Tigers can’t stop winning region championships.
The Tigers went perfect through the Region 8-A tournament, culminating with their third-straight region championship after a 5-1 win over Hebron Christian Thursday night (Oct. 3) at East Jackson Park.
“It’s exhilarating,” head coach Melissa Mullis said after the game. “I think we had some questions, but the girls came focused this week, kind of hit a stride, and I really believe that we were put in a good position. I know that some people don’t necessarily believe in God being involved in sports, but I believe he showed his favor to us, because we’ve been diligently working hard, and people have been praying for us.
“I believe in some way he showed his favor to us, and we were able to kind of pull together this week in a special way. I’m super grateful for that. I’m super grateful that these girls have kind of pulled together and wanted it for each other … I want to celebrate tonight, but tomorrow, we’ve got to get back to work and see what we need to do different, what we need to do better in order to have better results in the postseason.”
The Tigers (19-7) were led by Haley Horne at the plate. Horne recorded a triple and two RBIs in the sixth inning to seal the win.
“She had a great hit,” Mullis said. “It has been there the whole time. There’s been times she hasn’t played as much and she was All-State last year … Haley stepped up when she needed too and got it done. She’s had the heart all along. Unfortunately, I may have not given her the opportunities along the way that she has worked hard for, but it’s because I had to make decisions. There’s good people who I’ve had to not start.
“It has been a very difficult year because of that. She’s super valuable and she came through, and I’m so proud of her. She deserves that. I’m glad.”
The biggest play of the game, though, wasn't a hit, but rather a throw in the third inning that kept momentum away from Hebron. Landry Kate Martin gunned out a Hebron runner from mid-centerfield on a perfect strike to Maggie Mullis at the plate to keep the game at 1-1.
Carson Hobbs started the game in the circle for the Tigers. She pitched two innings and Mullis went to Rachel Morgan, and Morgan recorded five strikeouts and gave up no runs. Mullis said the plan was to pitch every Tigers’ pitcher in the game.
“We had planned two innings, two innings and three innings, and once Rachel got in there and was throwing gas, just lights out, I couldn’t make a change,” Mullis said. “What I know is Teresa (Dixon) was wanting it for her, too. There was not any selfishness there, even though Teresa was supposed to throw three innings. She didn’t even throw.
“Rachel did a phenomenal job of hitting her spots, coming in and being a gamer. She hasn’t pitched in a little while, and we had been doing a cycle. She came in on fire. She had her legs under her, and she just showed her competitive nature. Super proud of her. Super proud.”
After Hebron took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second, the Tigers responded in the bottom half of the inning when Maggie Blackmon scored the tying run.
In the bottom of the third, the Tigers got the go-ahead run thanks to a Hobbs sacrifice fly. Gabbie Deaton tagged up from third to score, sliding under the would-be tag by Hebron. The ball slipped out of the glove of the Hebron catcher on the tag attempt. The Tigers led 2-1.
The lead increased to 3-1 in the fifth when Kylee Taylor scored on Maggie Mullis’ sliding double. The final two runs came in the sixth when Horne plated both Kylee and Anna Taylor to push the final score to 5-1.