By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
Experience is indeed the best teacher.
And for that, Union City softball coach Wade Maddox expects his team to be better the next time.
The Lady Tornadoes, making their first-ever sectional appearance, gave perennial state power and four-time Class 1A champion Trinity Christian Academy a good fight before falling 4-1 Friday afternoon at Graham Park.
The loss ended the most successful season in the 20-year history of the UC program — with both district and regional championships, as well as 22 victories.
Getting to the next level is next on the list for both the Lady Twisters and Maddox, who took some intangibles from a TCA program that will now make its ninth consecutive appearance in the state tourney with a 24-18 record.
“We learned some things today, both about ourselves and what to expect at this stage,” the first-year Union City coach said. “It was a good first step. I hope everybody takes notice of what it took to get here and what it’ll take to get to the next level.
“We’re probably going to see TCA and Riverside every year for a while at this stage, so we have to understand what it takes to beat them. I don’t care what anybody says; they might not be as dominant as they have been in the past, but they have six or seven juniors and seniors on the team this year who have been there (state) before. It’s a lot different when you have and when you haven’t.”
Slugging first baseman Amanda Bond — a Freed Hardeman signee — walloped a solo home run over the left-centerfield fence to break a 1-all tie in the sixth and the visiting Lady Lions then added a pair of critical insurance tallies in their last at-bat to end UC’s season.
“Those two runs in the seventh, they were huge,” Maddox said. “It’s a lot different playing from one run down than it is 4-1.”
Union City could manage but two hits after the first and four total as TCA’s Cassie Layman struck out 12, including six of the last seven she faced.
The Lady Tornadoes countered a run by the visitors in the first with one in the bottom of the frame to forge a tie that lasted until the sixth.
Brittany Parker reached on an infield hit and continued on to second on the only error of the contest. Parker then raced home on a RBI single by Bettye Claire Beachum. A walk to Tory Reedy put two runners on, but the Twisters could do no more damage.
UC’s best chance to score after that came when Parker smoked a triple down the leftfield line with two outs in the fifth. She was stranded there, though, when TCA leftfielder Rachel Carson had the second of two sterling plays in leftfield — closing fast and catching a liner off the bat of Sadie Hollis that would’ve given the Lady Tornadoes the lead.
“There’s a good example — their leftfielder made two great defensive plays that don’t necessarily show up in the stats, but we might’ve won if she’d not made either of them,” Maddox added. “It’s the little things, and the fundamental things once you get here.”
Bond, who went 3-for-4 with a single, double and homer, picked on a pitch that was left over the heart of the plate to lead off the sixth and give the Lady Lions their eventual winning run.
TCA tacked on two runs in the seventh via an RBI single by Austin Brewer and a run-scoring double by Kylie Kuykendall.
A leadoff single by Caroline Chism in the bottom of the frame gave Union City a glimmer of hope for a rally, but Layman then fanned the side.
Hollis, who along with Reedy played her final high school game, saw her personal senior season record end up at 15-6 after she gave up eight hits and four walks.
“Those two seniors, there’s nothing I can say that would adequately describe what they’ve meant to our program,” Maddox concluded. “They’ve been very good players and great leaders.
“And I was so excited to have the community behind us today. It was a great atmosphere and it felt good.
“This game is about accepting failure and then deciding what you’re going to do about it to make sure it doesn’t happen again. It’s what makes you hungry and makes you better. I hope we’re hungry to get better and go farther in the future.”
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 5.20.13