By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
It was no surprise really, that Union City beat South Fulton for a third straight time this season to win its first-ever regional softball championship.
How the Lady Tornadoes did it, though, was downright shocking.
UC, which had played three close low-scoring games previously vs. SF this spring, pounded out 13 hits — nine in succession in a six-run third inning to break a 4-all tie — on its way to a 12-6 history-making triumph Wednesday evening at Eddlemon-Hawks Field.
The win in the Twisters’ initial region championship appearance in the 20-year history of the program earned the Purple and Gold (22-6) one final home game this spring at Graham Park in Friday’s Class 1A sectional.
Perennial state power Trinity Christian Academy — a four-time 1A champion and 2-0 loser to Riverside in Wednesday’s Region 8 title game — will be the Lady Twisters’ opponent at 5:30 p.m.
South Fulton (23-13), meanwhile, will hit the road to Parsons, where it will play Riverside Friday at 5 p.m.
Friday’s winners will advance to the state tournament next week in Murfreesboro, while the losers’ season will end.
Union City and South Fulton had hooked up three times before Wednesday — all pitchers’ duels with the Lady Tornadoes winning 5-3 and then 1-0 in the District 14A Tournament championship game after SF had won the first matchup 2-1.
The fourth meeting, though, produced more hits, runs — and errors — than the first three games combined.
The two clubs had 17 runs and 23 hits between them Wednesday, with also seven fielding/throwing blunders and several other mental mistakes, too.
Both coaches were admittedly surprised at the make-up of the contest.
“Never would’ve believed it, that it would happen this way” a smiling first-year Lady Tornado head coach Wade Maddox said afterward. “When you’ve seen someone four times, you make adjustments and get a little better swings.
“I had a coach tell me one time that in championship seasons, you have to win some games when you don’t play your best. Today was one of those games. I thought both teams were nervous early, but we executed some things very well after a rough start and South Fulton struggled in those areas. That’s a good club over on the other side, though, that never quit.”
Though of a different mood, veteran South Fulton skipper Curt Lee saw things much the same way.
“I certainly didn’t think there would be this much offense … or this many mistakes between these two teams,” said Lee, whose program will be making its 13th sectional appearance in his 15-season tenure with the long road trip Friday. “We butchered it up defensively early, but then battled and got back even. You just can’t play the way we did defensively and beat a good team.
“Give Union City credit, though, for bouncing back, too. And in that one inning when they got all the hits in a row, there weren’t any ‘cheapies.’ They were clean, solid, well-placed hits.”
Freshman Caroline Chism went 4-for-4 with a double and a run batted in to pace a 13-hit UC onslaught. Courtney Sherrill had a pair of hits, while Sadie Hollis and Bettye Claire Beachum each had two RBIs.
Chism, Kristian Davis, Sherrill, Brittany Parker, Hollis and Beachum all had run-scoring singles in the Lady Tornadoes’ merry-go-round third inning stretch that saw the winners send 10 batters to the plate. Tori Reedy started the uprising with a single, and Ashley Faught and Ivy Westbrooks also had base knocks as Union City played pepper with the left side of the SF outfield through the shortstop hole.
The contest began inauspiciously as both teams were guilty of numerous mistakes in the field, resulting in four runs for each side.
UC got its tallies when the Devilettes repeatedly were late to first base covering a bunt play and scored twice in both the first and second via just one hit — a Chism single.
South Fulton scored two in the first and third with Sara Reams doubling home one run and Landry Webster knocking in one with an infield hit and another with a ground ball after the Lady Tornadoes made three errors during that time.
After Union City exploded in its aforementioned third-inning uprising, the Big Red got a run in the fourth on Desiray Sturgeon’s fielder’s choice with the bases loaded to make it 10-5.
The Twisters immediately squashed any momentum SF might’ve gained by countering that run with two of their own, again capitalizing on shoddy execution on a bunt play by the visitors. One tally came home on South Fulton’s third three-base error of the contest, the other via a Hollis groundout.
The Devilettes finished with 10 hits off Hollis (14-5), who got the pitching win despite not having her best stuff.
Reams, Webster and Melanie Johnson had two hits apiece, with Webster driving home a pair of runs.
Reams was the losing pitcher.
GAME NOTES — Union City is now one win away from matching the program mark for most victories in a season (23). The Lady Tornadoes went 23-16 in 2008 under Shane Sisco, losing to Huntingdon in the regional semfinals. … South Fulton will be gunning for its seventh state tournament trip Friday when it plays at Riverside. The Devilettes have finished third twice, fourth twice and fifth two times and are 363-107 (.772) in Lee’s long and successful tenure. … UC first baseman Kristian Davis pinch-hit out of the flex position in the third inning and hobbled to first after getting an RBI base knock. Davis has been diagnosed with and has played through a painful strained hip flexor that has noticably affected her mobility. She finished the game, however, and is expected to be in Friday’s starting lineup.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 5.16.13