|Latest loss to Trinity leaves SF feeling ill |
|Posted: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 8:52 am |
| By MIKE HUTCHENS |
Messenger Sports Editor
If Curt Lee hadn’t been sick before South Fulton’s Class 1A sectional softball game against Trinity Christian Academy, he surely was afterward.
The Devilette coach — who’d visited the emergency room earlier Friday after battling a stomach virus the night before — watched TCA end his team’s season for the fourth time in the last five years with a gut-wrenching 1-0 loss.
An unearned first-inning run by the Lady Lions and eight stranded SF baserunners — four of those in scoring position — left anyone associated with the Big Red feeling ill.
The season-ending setback spoiled what was otherwise a spectacular season for the Devilettes, who won a school-record 36 games, including a program-best 19 in a row before Friday.
Six SFHS seniors — Jennifer Allen, Marina Barclay, Kacie Daugherty, Savannah Larson, Macy Maxwell and Haley McKinney — played their final game in a school uniform just hours before graduating with their 2012 classmates later in the evening. The group ended their four-year prep careers with a splendid 123-32-1 record that included four district championships, three sectional berths and a third-place finish in the state tournament as sophomores in 2010.
Though sure to be memorable, those gaudy numbers were lost in the disappointment of Friday’s loss immediately afterward.
“This one hurts, and I know it hurts the kids,” said Lee, who was obviously still feeling the effects of his illness in the 90-degree heat of the game. “We’ve talked a lot about the little things, and the little things were the difference today. We didn’t make a play in the first inning and they capitalized, and then we had several chances with the meat part of our lineup at the plate and just couldn’t get a ball to the outfield or one to fall in.
“To be honest, I thought we’d played in enough close games and been in enough of these situations during the regular season where we wouldn’t have games like this in the postseason. It’s disappointing, and I know it’s disappointing for the girls.”
TCA, a four-time Class 1A state champion that ended South Fulton’s season three straight years from 2008-10, advanced to its eighth straight state tournament and beat the Devilettes on the strength of a trademark strong pitching performance by another Renfroe.
Renfroe, who’ll join sisters Ivey and Ellen at the University of Tennessee next season, repeatedly pitched out of jams and executed her best pitches at the biggest times while fashioning a five-hit shutout with eight strikeouts and three walks.
She allowed baserunners in five of the seven innings, however, but three times left the tying run on third base — including in SF’s final at-bat.
“Give her credit, she made the big pitch when she needed it,” Lee said of TCA’s Renfroe. “She got a break or two, too, but that happens when you’re sound fundamentally and your defenders are positioned where they need to be.”
The Devilettes’ best chances to break through came in their first, third and last times at the plate.
Easily the most dramatic was the bottom of the seventh when SF got leadoff hitter Desiree Sturgeon on base with a hit and immediately sacrificed her to second via a perfect bunt by Larson. After pinch-hitter Lexi Johnson fanned for the second out of the inning, Kaci Daugherty slapped a ball down the third base line that went nearly got past Mackenzie Pendergrass but, nonetheless, went for a hit with Sturgeon sliding into third safely and Daugherty making it to first.
That brought up South Fulton’s leading hitter, Haley McKinney. McKinney hit a short nubber with plenty of top-spin between home and the pitcher, and Renfroe scrambled to field the ball and threw to first to beat the diving McKinney to signal joy for TCA and the beginning of tears for the Devilettes.
“We didn’t get a good break on Kacie’s ball. It could’ve easily hit the base and gotten to the outfield, and Desiree would’ve scored the tying run easily,” Lee said, replaying the last inning. “And it took a good play by Renfroe to get Haley. With the pressure of the situation and the way she had to hurry, a lot of other players would’ve thrown the ball into leftfield.”
SF also had a major threat in the first when McKinney and Barclay both walked with one out and advanced to second and third, respectively, on a wild pitch. Both were stranded in scoring position, though, as Maxwell popped out to second base and eighth-grader Aalia Bivens whiffed.
In the third, Daugherty doubled and was sacrificed to third by McKinney with one out, but was stranded there after a foul popup and a strikeout.
TCA got the only run of the contest and the only one it needed when Summer Cross beat out a ball that was misplayed between the pitcher and first base to lead off the game. She immediately stole second, went to third on Renfroe’s grounder to second, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Amanda Bond. Bond had spoiled several two-strike McKinney pitches before lofting her run-scoring fly to leftfield.
The Lady Lions got only one other runner as far as second base in the game against McKinney, who struck out five and walked just one.
She ended her widely-decorated prep career with a 22-3 record and will certainly be a candidate for a third straight all-state honor.
McKinney was backed by several solid defensive plays in the field, including a couple by Daughtery, Larson and outfielders Samantha Murray and Sturgeon.
Daugherty, a Tennessee State signee who played her best ball of a stellar four-year career this spring, had three of South Fulton’s five hits.
“I’m awfully proud of them,” concluded Lee, his weak voice trailing off. “I just wish we could’ve gotten back to the state again for this bunch of seniors.”
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 5.21.12