|Prayers answered for South Fulton girls as thrilling win earns state tourney bid |
|Posted: Monday, May 24, 2010 6:15 pm |
Be it through divine intervention or her coach’s simplistic instructions, Marina Barclay beat a case of the nerves and Riverside in dramatic fashion.
South Fulton’s Marina Barclay celebates with teammate Kacie Daugherty after the Devilettes’ victory over Riverside on Saturday.
Barclay, who admittedly prayed in the dugout the two previous innings, roped a game-winning single in the bottom of the eighth to lift South Fulton to a thrilling 3-2 victory Saturday over Decatur County and a berth in the Class 1A state softball tournament.
Barclay’s walk-off heroics — coming after a brief “just get in there and hit the dang ball” pep talk from head coach Curt Lee — earned the Devilettes their first Spring Fling trip since 2004 and the program’s sixth in 21 seasons in all.
SF (32-10) will open the eight-team, double-elimination event Tuesday night at the Murfreesboro Sports Complex at about 7 p.m. against University High School of Johnson City (17-17).
A victory in their tourney opener would propel the Lady Red Devils into a 5 p.m. Wednesday winner’s bracket semifinal vs. the winner of the Friendship Christian-Forrest game, while a first round loss would put them back in action Wednesday morning at 10 against the FC-Forrest loser. (See related bracket, Page 12.)
Back-to-back Riverside errors — the last of five in the sectional game that was postponed a day by wet grounds — set up Barclay’s shot to right-center that chased home courtesy runner Jennifer Allen and sent a huge contingent of SFHS faithful into a joyful celebration mode.
Barclay, who visibly struggled with the anxiety of the moment and received shouts of encouragement from her teammates before her memorable at-bat, had reached base twice earlier in the game on a bunt hit and an error.
“I just wanted her to collect her bearings and swing the bat like she was capable,” Lee said of his brief meeting with his sophomore third baseman who was mobbed by teammates after her deciding blow.
“She’s a good hitter who has struggled some lately. But she’s had some big hits for us and I knew she was capable of getting the big one there.”
SF’s winning rally started with one out when Paxton Sisson’s seemingly-harmless popup was dropped by Riverside second baseman Hailey Pearcy. Allen replaced Sisson on the bases as a runner and then moved up one spot when Haley McKinney’s bunt was misplayed at first, setting the stage for Barclay.
“They gave us a chance there with their two misplays, but we’d given them some opportunities, too, that they weren’t able to cash in on,” Lee added. “That’s what games this time of the year come down to — which team can take advantage of the others’ mistakes.”
South Fulton walked that danger tight-rope several times in the contest but was able to escape multiple jams thanks to McKinney.
The unflappable sophomore hurler stranded 10 Lady Panther baserunners — eight in scoring position — with both well-placed and timely pitches.
McKinney escaped a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the seventh after Lee elected to fill the sacks with an intentional walk to Riverside cleanup hitter Lauren Pratt. McKinney responded to the challenge by fanning Twyla Pratt and retiring Erica McCormic on a fly ball to centerfielder Katie Bivens.
“Wow, what a tremendous job pitching by McKinney,” Lee said in prais of his hurler who collected her 20th win by striking out six and scattering eight hits in a gritty performance. “I had to put her in a couple of tough spots because of where they were in their lineup with runners in scoring position, but she really bowed her neck and came up big.”
Both clubs scored two runs in the early innings of regulation before each was kept off the scoreboard by either clutch pitching or outstanding fielding later.
The Devilettes got their tallies in the second after loading the bases on a walk to Sisson and bunt hits by McKinney and Barclay. After Bivens fanned, Macy Maxwell lined an RBI hit to plate Allen, a courtesy runner for Sisson, with Barclay also scoring when Riverside centerfielder Lauren Pratt bobbled the ball.
The Lady Panthers scored twice in the third on Twyla Pratt’s bases-loaded RBI single, the second run coming when Sisson was bowled over at the plate by Brooke Kennedy after the South Fulton catcher had received a throw up the line from Chelsie Pitts.
SF was robbed of a winning hit in the bottom of the seventh when Morgan Maxwell’s line drive down the first base line was snared brilliantly by Twyla Pratt with a potential winning run at second base.
Barclay, Kacie Daugherty and Macy Maxwell all had two hits apiece for the Devilettes in an eight hit attack.
GAME NOTES — The win snapped a four-game losing streak at the sectional level for South Fulton. The Devilettes triumphed in four successive substate/sectional games from 1999-2002 while advancing to the state tournament in each of those years. SF’s all-time sectional/sub-state record is now 6-8 with appearances in that juncture in 13 of the last 14 years. … Macy Maxwell turned in easily the hustle play of day for SF when she dived unsuccessfully for a foul pop-up from her first base position into the gravel area in front of her team’s dugout. A nasty scrape on her elbow was tended to between innings and she stayed in the game. … Riverside, which lost four times this season to reigning state champion Trinity Christian Academy, finished the year at 25-14-1.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.