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All well for SF in end

All well for SF in end
All well for SF in end

South Fulton shortstop Kayla Davidson and second baseman Kacie Daugherty watch the second half of a game-ending double play on Wednesday.
MURFREESBORO — Thankfully for South Fulton, it’s not how you start, but how you finish.
The Devilettes overcame uncharacterstically-shaky first-inning defense that cost them two runs, then rallied by capitalizing on a rash of errors in the fifth to beat Forrest 5-2 for a berth in the winner’s bracket finals of the Class 1A state softball tournament.
The comeback triumph over last year’s runnerup and the 2008 single-A titleist, assured SF of no worse than a third-place finish — a showing that would match the program’s best-ever showing in five previous trips to the Spring Fling.
These Devilettes, however, have aspirations of even bigger things after righting their ship from turbulent early waters to win for a school-record 34th time in 44 games.
South Fulton will now face Chattanooga Grace Academy tonight at about 7, with the winner assuring itself of a spot in the championship round Friday and needing just one win in two games to earn the 1A crown.
CGA (30-6), which stunned reigning champion and pre-tourney favorite Trinity Christian Academy in the first round, was a 5-3 victor over East Robertson Wednesday in the other winner’s bracket semifinal.
Ironically, the bottom fell out from the heavens and caused a 45-minute rain delay just after the same happened to the Lady Rocket defense in Wednesday’s first winner’s bracket semifinal against the Big Red.
Forrest (27-6) committed five errors in a fateful top of the fifth inning when the Lady Devils scored all their runs with the aid of those misplays and three timely hits.
SF got within 2-1 on Morgan Maxwell’s RBI single to rightfield that plated Marina Barclay, who had reached on an error to start the frame. Maxwell continued to second base via an errant throw to the infield — one bag behind Katie Bivens — who had also gotten aboard on a fielding misplay behind Barclay.
Leadoff hitter Kacie Daugherty then slapped a ball to Rocket shortstop Ciara Cooke, who threw home in an attempt to retire Bivens. Bivens slid hard into catcher Caitlyn Rotchford and knocked the ball from her grasp on a bang-bang play that also allowed Maxwell to come around to score and give the Devilettes a 3-2 lead.
Chelsie Pitts then reached on an error when Forrest second baseman Courtney Hollandworth failed to cover first in time on a slow roller, with Daugherty racing home from second in the process to make it 4-2.
South Fulton’s final run of the uprising did not come without controversy as Pitts — initially thought to be out at the plate after trying to score on Haley McKinney’s single — was then ruled safe when it was determined that Rotchford had juggled the ball while applying the tag.
“I thought we really showed some toughness after that first inning when we didn’t fold,” SF head coach Curt Lee said afterward. “We got a couple of breaks ourselves with their errors and we got two or three timely hits to take full advantage of those breaks.
“That’s what good teams do.”
The Devilettes might well have asked for a ‘do-over’ after a start to the game that saw them commit four errors in the first inning in which the Rockets scored twice despite getting just one hit.
That dubious beginning certainly had Lee and a large Big Red following scratching their heads as SF had made just three errors in seven previous postseason games combined before they shaky start.
“I don’t know if it was the jitters, or maybe we just got a couple of bad hops and then tried to rush things with our throws,” Lee added. “We really settled down after that, though, and kept our composure and ourselves in the ballgame with much better defense, and gave ourselves a chance.
“I was especially proud of that.”
McKinney, who had a throwing error on a bunt by Forrest leadoff batter Chelsea Johnson that led to a run, was nearly flawless after that first inning.
She allowed but one single and one walk over the final six innings, getting especially solid defensive backing from Daugherty, who rebounded to account for five assists and five putouts after committing a pair of costly first-inning errors.
Barclay made a diving stab of a line drive in the fourth and leftfielder Desiray Sturgeon snagged a critical running grab in the first to prevent further damage to also back the mound performance of McKinney, now 22-5.
In an ironic twist, the game ended on a nice double play started by shortstop Kayla Davidson, who was upended on a hard slide by Andrean Jordan at second before Davidson threw successfully to Macy Maxwell at first to complete the twin-killing.
McKinney helped herself at the plate with two hits, the only Devilette to collect multiple safeties on a day in which the team had just five in all.

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