|Devilettes walk away as region champions
|Posted: Friday, May 18, 2012 6:02 am
| By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
“A walk is as good as a hit.”
The age-old battle cry for teams needing baserunners, South Fulton experienced the adage live and in color in the Region 7A softball championship.
A walk to load the bases followed by another that broke a scoreless tie in the fifth, and two more free passes in the seventh inning that led to a pair of insurance runs proved invaluable in the Devilettes’ 5-1 victory over host Huntingdon Wednesday that netted SF the title.
South Fulton’s 19th straight win not only netted the program its 11th regional title in the past 15 seasons, but also secured the Big Red a host role in Friday’s sectional.
With a program-record 36th triumph this spring, the Devilettes (36-4) will now face old nemisis Trinity Christian Academy, a 7-3 loser to defending Class A state champion Riverside Wedneday in the Region 8 championship game.
TCA a four-time state champion ended SF’s season three straight years (2008-10), the first two in the sectional round and the most recent time when the Lady Devils placed a best-ever third in the state tournament.
South Fulton will be gunning for a seventh all-time berth in the state in Friday’s game that will start at noon to accomodate the six senior players who will graduate at SFHS that evening.
One of those — two-time all-state pitcher Haley McKinney — saved herself the anguish of having to make a decision whether to accompany her team on a road trip to Riverside for a late-afternoon Friday game or deliver the commencement address as the Class of 2012 valedictorian.
“Thankfully, she won’t have that choice to make now,” grinned Devilette skipper Curt after McKinney allowed just four hits and fanned seven in shutting down a potent Huntingdon lineup on Wednesday and improving her personal mark to 22-2 this year. “She (McKinney) was everything we could ask for. She hit her spots and really didn’t make any mistakes.”
McKinney, who gave up only a seventh-inning solo home run to Jaime Bailey, got the offensive support she needed in the fifth when the Devilettes scored twice without hitting the ball — on a bases loaded walk and a hit batsman with the sacks filled — and then a third run that came home on a sacrifice fly.
“It’s the little things, like being patient and not swinging at bad or borderline pitches, that sometimes can be the difference between winning and losing,” Lee continued. “When you get this deep in the postseason, you aren’t going to get a lot of chances. You have to take what the other team gives you or make your own breaks.”
With one out in the fifth, Kacie Daugherty beat out an infield hit to short and was joined aboard by McKinney, who also singled. A walk to Marina Barclay loaded the bases before Macey Maxwell then drew another free pass from Kristen Lowe that put the first run on the board when Daugherty came in.
Aalia Bivens was then hit in the head by a Lowe pitch that brought home another tally and Sara Reams followed with a sacrifice fly to right that plated Barclay and made it 3-0.
The Devilettes tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the seventh that started with a two-out walk to Bivens. Reams beat out an infield hit and Desiray Sturgeon drew the sixth walk from Lowe to load the bases and bring in reliever Hannah Belew.
Savannah Larson greeted Belew by driving a 3-1 pitch into centerfield to drive home Bivens and Reams and make it 5-0.
“That was huge,” Lee added. “Anytime you can go into a last inning and know that the worst thing, which would’ve been a grand slam, couldn’t beat you, it allows you to breathe a little easier.
“We had wasted some opportunities earlier by not getting a couple of bunts down before that fifth inning. And I thought Huntingdon had gained some confidence from that and we maybe tightened up a little. We have to do a better job in that area on Friday.”
SF outhit the Fillies 8-4, with Daugherty getting two of those knocks as the perfect catalyst atop the order as the Tennessee State-signee reached base in all four of her at-bats. Maxwell and Bivens also got aboard twice each with a single and a walk.
Huntingdon (29-9) will play at Riverside in Friday’s other rural West Tennessee 1A sectional.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 5.17.12