Arts & Sciences' Lady Patriots sang "Happy Birthday" to assistant coach Samantha Everett on Monday, although her birthday was actually Sunday. Head coach Kaity Holloway noted that her birthday isn't until January, but she'll gladly take what her team did on the field at Frost Stadium as an early present.
For the first time since forming a varsity softball team in the 1995-96 school year, CSAS has earned its way to the state tournament, defeating Trousdale County 4-0 in a Class A state sectional.
The Lady Patriots (25-10-1) won't have much time to savor their accomplishment. They must be in Murfreesboro today to face McKenzie at 5 p.m. EDT at Starplex No. 4.
"It's a great feeling," Holloway said. "I couldn't ask for a better support system, from the parents to the girls to administration. The talent has always been here. Sam and I are just here to help them try to realize their full potential and point them in the right direction."
For the second consecutive postseason start, senior pitcher Brianna Taylor had a no-hitter through six innings. Both times it was broken up in the seventh -- Hannah Brooke Ellis's double to left-center spoiling Taylor's bid Monday with one out to go -- and she settled for one-hitters.
Taylor was so in control during her outing, she didn't need any help from her outfielders until the final inning. She hit the first batter of the game but did not issue a walk. She had eight consecutive strikeouts during one stretch and finished with 13.
"She was doing exactly what we needed her to do," Holloway said of Taylor, who also went 2-for-4 with a double. "She wanted this just as bad as anybody on this team. She hit her spots. She was working off the plate in both directions. Lately she's been dong a lot better at that."
Catcher Kiara Suttles lined a single to left field in the third inning to drive in the first run. She doubled after a bunt single by Victorious Blanton in the fifth, leading to Blanton scoring on Jamani Greer's groundout and Suttles scoring on Brittany Patmon's single. Gabi Queener doubled in the fourth and eventually scored the other run on Bri'Ana Parker's sacrifice fly.
Suttles ended up 3-for-3. Patmon went 2-for-3, as did junior second baseman Blanton, who caught a pop fly for the final out.
"It felt amazing," Blanton said. "My heart dropped. I was so happy for my team. We're going to the state tournament. Everybody came together as a team. We're not about individuality. It's us as a group."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.