By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
MURFREESBORO — Big hits win big games.
And on any stage, they don’t come any bigger than home runs.
Richland smacked three homers — the first to lead off the contest — to send South Fulton to a 5-1 loss in the first round of the Class 1A state softball tournament Tuesday evening.
The Devilettes (24-14), who are making their seventh all-time appearance in the double-elimination event, were to be back in action noon today in an elimination game against University School of Johnson City (27-14), a 4-3 loser to Oliver Springs in another opening round game Tuesday.
Four of Richland’s five hits against South Fulton Tuesday went for extra-bases, while the Devilettes failed to capitalize on several scoring chances in falling to the losers’ bracket.
“They didn’t get a lot of hits, but the ones they got were huge in that they gave them immediate runs,” SF head coach Curt Lee said after the contest. “On the other hand, we could never string together anything, and we couldn’t produce the few chances we did have because we didn’t execute some small, fundamental things.”
SF put its leadoff hitter on in five of seven innings and had a runner at third base in four of the first five frames but never scored until Landry Webster’s infield single chased home Aalia Bivens, who had doubled to start the sixth.
Richland, meanwhile, jumped in front immediately when Merrianne Patterson yanked a pitch just inside the leftfield foul pole for a solo home run to start the game.
A two-run shot by Kayce Currin in the fourth made it 3-0, and Ashton Henderson’s blast in the sixth with Currin aboard increased the South Fulton deficit to 5-0.
The Devilettes drew back-to-back walks by Desiray Sturgeon and Sara Reams to lead off their half of the first, but those two were stranded at second and third base.
In the third, Melanie Johnson opened the frame with a single and eventually reached third with two out before dying there, while Webster walked and was left at the corner in the fourth.
Aariel Wright doubled to right-center to begin the fifth, but a failed sacrifice was critical in her being stranded at third.
“We didn’t hit the ball real hard, and we weren’t successful playing small ball, either, when we had the opportunity,” Lee added. “Defensively, we only made one mistake — and that didn’t hurt us — but not advancing runners and not doing the little things that would’ve kept it closer in the late innings and given us a better chance really hurt us.”
Reams struck out three and walked three to absorb the pitching loss.
SF batters fanned nine times against Richland’s Ashton Edwards.
Published in The Messenger 5.22.13