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No shame in manner of Devilette exit

No shame in manner of Devilette exit
No shame in manner of Devilette exit

SF head coach Curt Lee rallies his troops on Friday.
MURFREESBORO — Curt Lee is admittedly not a very good loser.
That didn’t keep the South Fulton coach from tipping his cap to both his own club and the one that ended the Devilettes’ season Friday.
“I don’t like losing. But if we had to get beat, I can handle losing and playing the way we did today. We proved today we were deserving to be here,” Lee begrudgingly said after SF was ousted from the Class 1A State Softball Tournament via a 4-0 loss to eventual champion Trinity Christian Academy.
“We played much better defensively than we did the two previous games when we kicked it and threw it all over the place. We competed today, and the way we played was much more like we’d played all year to get here.
“And sometimes, you just have to tip your hat to the other team. The (Ellen) Renfroe kid is just a great high school pitcher. She puts the ball where she wants to, and when teams are able to put it in play against her, she has good defense behind her. It’s no fluke they’ve had the success they have in the last few years.”
That TCA resume was enhanced with the program’s fourth state title in five seasons when the Lady Lions (49-2) completed a spectacular run of six straight victories in the tourney after an opening round loss with 3-0 and 2-1 (10 innings) triumphs over Chattanooga Grace Academy on Friday night and Saturday afternoon, respectively.
Friday’s loss marked the third straight season Trinity Christian had ended SF’s season.
Lee, whose taskmaster style — heavy on fundamentals and attention to details — has proven highly successful with six state tournament trips in 12 seasons at the SF helm. And he did take a little comfort in the fact that his team matched the program’s best-ever third-place state showing as it won a record 34 games, and that the Devilettes were the last public school standing as the two academies later battled in the championship round.
“This team definitely left its mark in our program,” said the coach, now 280-82-1 (.771) in his tenure. “Except for a couple of games up here, and maybe one or two during the season, we caught and threw the ball well defensively. We got good pitching and timely hitting. And we played the game the way it is supposed to be played.
“As far as our opponents, the privates don’t necessarily play by the same set of rules that we public schools do, but that’s just the way it is. We’ll play who they tell us to play, and we’ll continue to try to elevate our game and our program to where that’s not an issue. Being the only public school left in the end this year is a good footnote, though.”
Before bowing out, South Fulton gave the Lady Lions all they wanted for five innings — locked in a scoreless tie between Haley McKinney and Renfroe in a classic pitcher’s duel before TCA broke through in the six with two outs.
Amy Johnson singled and then Natalie Nelson roped a 2-2 pitch into the left-centerfield gap that plated Johnson for the only run Trinity Christian would need,
The Lady Lions did tack on three insurance runs in the seventh RBI single by Renfroe and a two-run hit by Haley Elliott in a flurry that was aided by a SF error.
The Devilettes managed just two hits against Renfroe, who twirled shutouts in five of her six tournament victories, and never mounted a serious scoring threat. Renfroe — bound for the University of Tennessee where her sister Ivy was the SEC’s top freshman hurler this season — struck out nine and did not walk a batter.
Paxton Sisson in the second and Marina Barclay in the fifth had South Fulton’s only hits, both singles. In all, the Big Red could manage just three baserunners, with one of those doubled off on a failed bunt attempt and another picked off first.
“We had a couple of baserunning mistakes that kept us from putting anything together,” Lee admitted. “That was one area that really exposed up here with some of our younger kids.”
McKinney, who finished an otherwise stellar sophomore campaign with a 22-7 pitching mark, was charged with the loss. She gave up 11 hits, walked one and fanned two.
The South Fulton defense, uncharacteristically shaky with 10 errors in its previous two tournament games, was much more recognizable with second baseman Kacie Daugherty making a couple of top-notch plays, and Barclay at third and Macy Maxwell at first also digging out fine scoops in the field.
The contest was the last in a SFHS uniform for seniors Katie Bivens, Kayla Davidson and Morgan Maxwell.
Davidson has signed to continue her playing career at Austin Peay; Maxwell recently inked with Dyersburg State.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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