MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Whitwell's softball team did not win its district regular-season championship. But since postseason started the Lady Tigers have been on a roll, and one that needed one more timely hit Friday to extend it.
Whitwell didn't get a hit off Gordonsville's Cori Jennings for 4 2/3 innings in the losers-bracket final in the Class A high school state tournament at the Starplex No. 4 field. But the Lady Tigers managed six off the junior left-hander in the last four innings.
The problem was they stranded nine in that span, seven in scoring position, and the Tigerettes were able come away with a 2-1 victory.
Whitwell ended its season 25-17 and in third place in the tournament.
"We peaked at the right time," said Whitwell coach Grace Pickett, whose team were the District 6 runner-up and won the Region 3 tournaments on the way to the Spring Fling. "These girls have worked so hard to be here today. I'm so happy they finally got to experience what it's like going to state, especially the seniors."
Jennings had six strikeouts, allowed four walks and hit one batter. Two of the walks were to Carly Woods and Magen Fulfer after two were out in the fitfth inning. Then KayeAnn Patton broke up the no-hitter with the first of her two singles, driving in the tying run.
Jennings, who came into the game with an ERA of 0.76, had to work out of jams in the last three innings. In the sixth and eighth, the Lady Tigers had the tying run at third base with one out.
"The sixth, seventh and eighth innings we had a handful of runners on," Pickett said. "We had our chances. She's a wonderful pitcher, a wonderful athlete. We didn't want to swing at a changeup unless we had two strikes. That changeup is devastating. We just didn't get that one big hit that we needed."
Jennings is the only pitcher the Tigerettes (34-12-1) used in the tournament. They ended up falling 2-0 to Richland in the final.
"She's 24-3 and somebody we've rode all year," Gordonsville coach Jonathan Bush said after the Whitwell game. "A game like this it gets to the eighth inning, and you're going to get tired at the end. Plus it was her fourth game in four days."
Jennings has committed to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and so has Whitwell shortstop Alyssa Coppinger, who was a menace again on defense against Gordonsville as she was when the teams met in the winners bracket Thursday. She made three putouts and two assists Friday but would've needed to be a little taller or be able to jump a little higherto catch Jacqueline Crawford's eighth-inning line drive. It tipped off the end of her glove and fell in the outfield for the go-ahead RBI single.
"Their shortstop is probably the best shortstop we've seen, and she's just 15 years old and a sophomore," Bush said. "I know she took away three hits, or they probably would've been hits against anybody else. My hat's off to them. They're probably one of the more scrappy teams we've faced."
Junior right-hander Riley Long was Whitwell's workhorse this season and despite being the losing pitcher, she matched Jennings' six-hitter, had one more strikeout than her counterpart and did not issue a walk.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.