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Champ Devilettes seize opportunity as Fillies falter

Champ Devilettes seize opportunity as Fillies falter
Champ Devilettes seize opportunity as Fillies falter

South Fulton’s Haley McKinney pitches during Wednesday’s 7A title game victory.
HUNTINGDON — South Fulton made Huntingdon pay dearly for the error(s) of its ways.
SF took advantage of six Fillies fielding misplays and avenged postseason losses in three of the past four years by beating Huntingdon 7-0 for the Region 7-1A championship Wednesday.
The payoff for SF, in addition to the program’s 10th regional title in the 21-year history of the program, is host rights for sectional play Friday.
Perhaps an even bigger return for the Devilettes is the fact that their next opponent won’t be defending Class A state champion Trinity Christian Academy — a team that has ended South Fulton’s last two seasons in sectional play.
Instead, SF (31-10) will be at home to play Riverside (24-13), a 5-0 loser to TCA in the Region 8 title game Wednesday.
Due to SFHS graduation ceremonies that are scheduled for 5:30, the Friday afternoon sectional contest will be played at noon (weather permitting). If Friday’s scheduled contest is rained out, Devilette coach Curt Lee said the game would be played at 2 on Saturday (if applicable) or at the same time on Sunday.
TCA (42-1) — winners of three of the past four 1A state titles — will host Huntingdon (25-14-1) in the other West Sectional, with both winners Friday advancing the Spring Fling state tournament in Murfreesboro, where play begins on Tuesday.
SF, which will be making is 13th appearance in the sectional round in the last 14 seasons, will be looking to qualify for the state tournament for the sixth time. The Big Red last made it in 2004, and have finished third, fourth twice and fifth twice in previous trips.
The Devilettes dispelled any notion of a jinx against Huntingdon with another solid all-around performance against a Fillie program that had shut South Fulton out in tournament meetings in ’09, ’08 and ’06.
Those squads featured the dominating pitching of Brooke Thomas, however, and with that hard-throwing ace and her talents now at Union University, SF fared far better.
And the Lady Red Devils — error-free themselves — were the beneficiaries of shaky Huntingdon defense after the Fillies had taken advantage of like play from Union City in winning a tourney semifinal game the day before.
When all was said and done, none of South Fulton’s seven runs were earned. The Devilettes scored three times in the fourth inning with the aid of four errors and an illegal pitch and put up four insurance tallies in the sixth that were set up by two Huntingdon errors.
“When you can get just one run off an error this time of the year, it’s huge — much less, seven runs,” SF head coach Curt Lee said after his squad added another triumph to its school-record total this season. “When you don’t make plays behind your pitcher and put them in more stressful spots, it really takes a toll on your whole team.
“At the same time, when you catch it and throw it behind your own pitcher, it makes the game so much easier for everybody. We’ve really been doing that a lot lately, and we’ve been taking advantage of whatever opportunities we have and getting some timely hitting, too.”
SF collected just one lone safety in its three-run fourth Wednesday — that a single by Morgan Maxwell after the damage had already been done.
Haley McKinney started the inning by reaching on an error by second baseman Winter Santiago. Marina Barclay grounder then went between shortstop Jaime Bailey’s legs for a two-base miscue that allowed McKinney to score. Katie Bivens followed by joining Barclay on base after her bunt was mishandled by pitcher Hailey Kendall.
The Devilettes then got their second run when a pickoff throw attempt by Huntingdon catcher Ashley Webb hit Barclay in the back as she scrambled back to third base, allowing the SF runner to scramble to her feet and score. Bivens, who took third on the last of those four Fillie errors in the frame, then was awarded home herself when Kendall was called for an illegal pitch that made it 3-0.
That was more than enough for McKinney (19-5), who earned her fourth win and second shutout of the postseason with a five-strikeout, no-walk performance. She was threatened only once when Huntingdon put runners on the corners in the second, but fanned Santigo to end the inning and ultimately finished with a four-hitter.
South Fulton gave McKinney some breathing room in the sixth when it sent eight batters to the plate.
Barkley’s double started the uprising and a two-run double smoked by Austin Peay signee Kayla Davidson finished off the scoring and the Fillies. Macy Maxwell had an infield single and a RBI in the frame and the Devilettes capitalized on two more errors by the host team — one when Chelsie Pitts’ line drive went through third baseman Courtney Caton’s grasp.
“We’ve put ourselves in a good spot Friday, but it won’t mean a thing if we don’t come out and play like we’re capable and take care of business,” Lee said, when addressing Friday’s do-or-die sectional matchup vs. Riverside.
“I like our girls’ demeanor right now. They’ve been here before, and they’re not intimidated by what it all means. They’re able to channel the adrenaline and that’s very crucial when the stakes are high.”
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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