|Devilettes pushed to limit by UC before taking customary crown |
Great pitching and a single timely hit bought Union City another game in the District 14A Softball Tournament.
South Fulton’s Kayla Davidson attempts to turn a double play after forcing out Union City’s Jade Davis at second base Thursday.
Those same two attributes then gave South Fulton the tourney championship.
Melissa Reams mashed a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth to back the one-hit pitching of eighth-grader Haley McKinney and help the Devilettes to their 10th district tournament title in the last 11 seasons with a 2-0 victory over UC Thursday night.
The Lady Tornadoes took SF to the limit and forced a fifth meeting between the two Obion County rivals earlier when pinch-hitter Jasmine Davis singled home Maddie Harris with two outs in the seventh after surprise starter Katie Hawks had tossed five shutout innings to lift Union City to a 1-0 triumph over the host Red Devils.
Both teams will now move on to the Region 7A semifinals on Monday.
South Fulton (21-8) will play host to District 13 runnerup McKenzie (11-13), which lost 10-0 to Huntingdon in Thursday’s championship round. The Fillies (27-6) will welcome Union City (23-15) in a rematch of last year’s region semis in which Huntingdon won handily, 12-0.
The two teams played earlier this season in a tournament at Westview with Huntingdon all-stater Brooke Thomas no-hitting UC 3-0. Thomas struck out the first 15 McKenzie batters she faced in Thursday’s game, but reportedly pulled a hip flexor and was removed from the game in the sixth.
Typical of clubs successful during tournament time, Thursday’s SF-UC doubleheader was dominated by four stellar pitching performances and one clutch hit in each game.
In Game 1, Hawks — her team’s No. 3 pitcher who got the starting nod partly due to blister problems incurred by Lady Tornado ace Karly Hollis — regularly kept South Fulton off-balance with five brilliant frames that included four strikeouts, two walks and just two hits allowed.
And Davis, who drove home a run in the same pinch-hitting role that she played Thursday in UC’s 4-3 triumph over Gleason two days earlier, smacked the only pitch she saw off Reams for an RBI single in the seventh to account for the game’s only tally.
When all the marbles were on the line, though, the Devilettes’ McKinney was downright dominant, allowing no hits and just two baserunners (both via error) until one out in the seventh. Showing maturity beyond her years in the big-game setting, she finished with 11 strikeouts, no walks and a one-hitter.
And Reams erased any bitter leftover taste she might’ve had from the opening game by sending a rocket shot off the centerfield fence that plated both Kaci Daughtery and McKinney — who walked earlier in the sixth — to break a 12-inning scoreless streak for South Fulton.
“I certainly think both teams are to be commended,” winning head coach Curt Lee said after the final out of the championship game was recorded. “Those were two well-played games. There was great pitching and neither team had very many opportunities offensively. Union City cashed in on theirs in the first game, and Reams got a huge hit for us in the second.”
Lady Tornado skipper Shane Sisco shared those thoughts.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my girls, and I know Curt feels the same about his,” Sisco claimed. “We knew it’d be awful tough to beat a good team like South Fulton twice in one day, but we won the first one and battled to the very end in the second. It was a good tournament.”
The following is a recap of the championship round.
South Fulton 2, Union City 0
Though McKinney had retired 18 of the first 19 batters she faced and allowed just one ball hit out of the infield, she was locked with Hollis in a pitching duel until the Devilettes broke through in the bottom of the sixth.
Daughtery and McKinney had executed a double-steal after drawing walks, while SF’s Kayla Davidson struck out against Hawks, who was brought in to briefly relieve Hollis.
Reams then mashed Hawks’ first offering deep to center and out of the grasp of Lady Twister centerfielder Paige Fisher, who chased the hit to the base of the fence with both Daughtery and McKinney coming home. South Fulton later loaded the bases on a hit by Katie Bivens and a walk to pinch-hitter Macy Maxwell, but Hollis re-took the mound and fanned both Anna Seratt and Mariana Barclay to escape further damage.
Union City then mounted, essentially, its only threat against McKinney in its last at-bat, putting two aboard with one out when Jade Davis reached on error and Allison McCullough singled.
McKinney (5-5) ignored any pressure, however, retiring Hollis on a popup and Harris on a ground ball to second baseman Kayla Davidson to set off the Lady Devils’ celebration.
“She’s got nerves of steel,” Lee said of his young hurler. “She really handles herself well when the stakes are high.”
Union City 1, South Fulton 0
Hawks, who sported a 2-3 record coming in, retired nine straight at one point and matched Reams’ zeroes before leaving after walking Daughtery to lead off the sixth.
Hollis relieved and got the heart of the SF order with a runner in scoring position and ended up retiring all six batters she faced to get credit for the pitching victory to improve to 17-7. Reams, who struck out five, walked two and surrendered but five scattered singles, saw her record dip to 14-3 with the complete-game effort.
Davis’ winning knock went to right-center and scored Harris, who’d led off the inning with a double and was sacrificed to third by a successful Olivia Arnold bunt. Reams fanned Katie Townes for the second out of the inning before Davis smacked the only offering she saw to the outfield as a brief shower began to fall.
“That’s twice Jasmine came up big in this tournament and we were going to start her in the second game, but she tweaked her back while trying to steal second after she got the hit,” Sisco said.
Lee lauded her counterpart and the efforts of Hawks, saying, “That was a pretty gutsy move to start that young lady in such a big situation and I applaud Coach Sisco for doing it and her for coming through and doing her job.”
Both teams missed out on scoring chances early, SF with two-on, and two-out in the second, and UC coming up empty on a second-and-third chance with one out in the third.
South Fulton’s game with McKenzie will start at 5 Monday, as will the Union City-Huntingdon game.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.