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Devilettes can’t dig out of latest hole

Devilettes can’t dig out of latest hole
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
MURFREESBORO — Not this time.
One night after recovering from a near-disastrous four-error first inning and rallying to beat Forrest, South Fulton was unable to turn the trick in consecutive games, dropping a 5-0 decision to Chattanooga Grace Academy in the Class 1A state softball tournament Thursday.
The loss dropped the Devilettes (34-11) into a do-or-die scenario this morning at 10 where they were to play reigning state champion Trinity Christian Academy (45-2) in the loser’s bracket final of the double-elimination tourney. (See related story, Page 1.)
SF — already assured of matching the program’s best-ever finish with no worse than a third-place showing — would earn a rematch against the Lady Golden Eagles (31-6) in the championship round at 5:30 if it beats TCA this morning.
South Fulton would have to beat CGA a second time on Saturday to win the state title.
All the damage done vs. the Big Red was self-inflicted Thursday as SF committed four defensive misplays in the bottom of the first that allowed Grace Academy to score three times.
Another error in the second led to a fourth Lady Eagle tally, and a wild pitch and a passed ball in the top of the seventh accounted for the victors’ final run.
“We were lucky last night, but you can’t expect to play defensively like we did in the first inning last night and tonight and win games at this level,” a disappointed SF head coach Curt Lee said of his team’s play after Thursday’s game. “You’re not going to score very many runs when you face good pitching like there is here, and to give teams extra outs and five and six opportunties in an inning usually will come back to haunt you.
“It certainly did us.”
None of the runs scored vs. the Devilettes were earned as a result of uncommonly-poor defensive play.
South Fulton, which had made just three errors in seven postseason games prior to Wednesday, followed a four-error performance the day before by committing five fielding/throwing blunders in Thursday’s meltdown.
After Lacye Walker led off the game with a single, SF threw the ball all over the yard on a bunt attempt by Lexi Dean with both corner infielders Marina Barclay and Macy Maxwell making errant throws that resulted in Walker scoring and Dean ending up at second.
One out later, Kaitlyn Eldridge’s ground ball to second went between the wicket of Kacie Daugherty for a three-base error and a 2-0 Grace lead. Jessie Parker then hit a ball that Maxwell couldn’t flag down at first and the Lady Eagles had a 3-0 advantage.
Things didn’t get much better in the second as another error on Barclay was followed by Walker’s ground-rule double and a two-out hit by Bethany Cowart to make it 4-0.
Lee pulled ace hurler Haley McKinney (22-6) after that second inning, hoping to save her the wear of extra frames for today’s win-or-else game vs. a TCA team that has ended SF’s season at the sectional level each of the last two seasons.
McKinney’s replacement, freshman Sara Reams, was easily the lone bright spot of the game for the Devilettes.
Reams scattered five hits and struck out five while allowing only an unearned run in five innings of relief.
“Sara really did a good job, especially for a freshman in this setting,” Lee confirmed. “She basically held them where they were and gave us a chance.
“We just didn’t do anything offensively, either.”
The Lady Devils collected just two hits in the contest off southpaw Walker — singles by McKinney in the second and Paxton Sisson in the sixth. South Fulton had more than one baserunner in just one inning, that in the fifth when Katie Bivens walked and Morgan Maxwell reached on an error to put Devilettes at the corners.
Daugherty was retired on a fine stab of a soft liner by Eldridge to silence the threat though.
Bivens and Sisson were the only two South Fulton players to reach base more than once — the former via two walks, the latter by a hit and an error.
“We didn’t have anybody do much of anything right tonight, other than Sara (Reams),” Lee concluded. “We didn’t field it, we didn’t throw it, and we didn’t hit it. And we didn’t run the bases very well at all.”
A picked off runner at first and a caught-stealing at second supported Lee’s claim.
“If we play like this again tomorrow (today), it’ll be a short Friday and a long trip home for our kids. I wouldn’t think that our kids would want the last memory of this great season to be another one like today,” the coach said.
Published in The Messenger 5.28.10

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