SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — After going an entire regular season without losing to another Class A team, Whitwell's softball team was just four outs from suffering its second such loss in as many days, and to the same opponent. Instead, the Lady Tigers rallied to plate three runs with two outs in the sixth and added an insurance run in the seventh to knock off Marion County 4-1.
That sets up today's winner-take-all District 6-A championship game at 7 p.m.
Whitwell had earned its way back into the championship round by eliminating Sale Creek 11-1 in the loser's bracket final earlier Wednesday, then used the late rally to avenge its loss to Marion from a day earlier.
"This is as mentally tough a team as I've ever been around and that paid off tonight," Whitwell coach Darrin Easterly said. "We've made our living all season with defense and solid pitching and that's what let us down when we lost to them [Tuesday]. Tonight we got back to our style, and I can't say enough about the heart our kids showed."
Marion had led throughout after scoring its run in the home half of the first on Erica O'Kane's single that plated Tori Hansard.
Whitwell had squandered two early scoring chances, leaving runners stranded at second and third in the fourth and another runner stranded at third in the fifth. The Lady Tigers finally broke through in the sixth, beginning with Kacee Hedrick's two-out, RBI single and followed by Kelsey Kilgore's two-run double.
"It was a pretty big relief to finally get those runs," said Riley Long, who allowed just two hits after the first inning to earn the win. "It was getting nerve-wrecking because I kept looking up at the scoreboard and thinking how late the game was getting. But I still believed my teammates would get us going.
"Once we got the lead, I knew I couldn't relax. I just had to go out and finish it."
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...