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SF girls dominant in Day 1 drubbing

SF girls dominant in Day 1 drubbing
SF girls dominant in Day 1 drubbing

South Fulton’s Haley McKinney pitches during the Devilettes win on Tuesday evening.
MURFREESBORO — It wasn’t a ‘Perfect 10,’ but it was pretty darn close.
Invoking the mercy rule after five innings, South Fulton opened play in the Class 1A softball tournament with a near-flawless performance and a 10-0 rout of University School of Johnson City Tuesday night.
Haley McKinney struck out 11 and did not allow a ball to be hit out of the infield, and every SF starter collected a hit as the Devilettes put on a dominant first-round performance to move into today’s winner’s bracket semifinals.
SF (33-10) now faces Forrest (27-5), last year’s state runnerup and the 2008 tournament champion, today at 5 p.m. in the double-elimination event.
Should South Fulton win today against the Rockets, it would be assured of no worse than a third-place finish — matching their best-ever showing in six state tournament appearances. The Devilettes would then play the East Robertson (30-8)/Chattanooga Grace Academy (29-6) game Thursday at about 7 p.m., with a berth in the tourney championship at stake.
A loss this evening, and the Lady Red Devils would be back in action in a must-win scenario Thursday around noon vs. the winner of this morning’s Unaka (30-12)/Trinity Christian Academy (43-2) game.
TCA, the reigning single-A champion that is seeking its fourth state title in the last five years, was upset by Chattanooga Grace Academy 1-0 in the Day 1 shocker.
SF easily won its fourth first-round game in six all-time state tournament appearances against the upstart Bucs (17-18), the only club in the eight-team tourney without a winning record coming in.
A four-run uprising with two outs in the third broke a scoreless tie, and the Lady Devils then tacked on three more runs in both the fourth and fifth innings and brought the game to a premature end when McKinney fanned two of the final three batters and got the last USJC hitter on a pop-up to shortstop Kayla Davidson.
Even South Fulton head coach Curt Lee — admittedly a stickler for perfection — could find little to complain about.
“There were only a couple of little things that I wish we could’ve done differently or better,” the Devilette skipper said after the romp. “I thought we played well in all phases, and getting the big two-out hits in the fourth really helped us relax. We adjusted to their pitcher and the fact that she didn’t throw as hard as some of the others we’ve seen and really hit some balls hard.
“I thought the big thing was that we kept putting pressure on them and adding to our lead after breaking through there in the third inning. We never gave them the opportunity to get back in the game.”
McKinney was a critical variable in that equation.
She whiffed the first eight batters she faced. So overwhelmed were the Buccaneers, in fact, they tried in vain to bunt for their first hit with their No. 9 hitter after her teammates before her failed to make contact.
McKinney (21-5) ended up surrendering a seeing-eye infield hit and a bunt single in the fourth, though the leading runner of those two USJC players was erased at third on a throw from first baseman Macy Maxwell to third-sacker Marina Barclay after the successful bunt.
“Even though she had a lot of strikeouts, I thought McKinney kept her pitch-count relatively low — which is critical as we move on in the tournament,” Lee added.
Offensively, SF hit 1-thru-9 while banging out 14 safeties in all.
Leadoff hitter Kacie Daugherty was a rally-starter with a 3-for-4 plate performance that included three runs scored. Chelsie Pitts — No. 2 in the order — drove in three runs, while Kayla Davidson tied a long-standing tournament record with two triples in a game, both of which accounted for an RBI.
Catcher Paxton Sisson and Morgan Maxwell also had two hits apiece, Sisson’s effort including a run-scoring ground-rule double.
Daugherty, Sisson, McKinney and the sisters Maxwell — Macey and Morgan — all had one ribbie each.
Morgan Maxwell was the only Devilette other than Daugherty to score multiple runs, crossing the plate twice.
“We swung the bats well all the way through the lineup,” Lee confirmed. “I thought we did a good job handling the big stage of a state tournament game, and our kids acted like they belong here — which I feel like they do.”
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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