It could be that Brooke Raines is simply too young to appreciate the significance of the moment or just how big her hit was. Or maybe Sale Creek's freshman slugger is just that good.
Either way, she reacted with barely more than a shy smile after clobbering a two-run home run in the sixth inning to lift her team to a 2-1 home win over Oliver Springs for the Region 3-A championship Wednesday night.
"I knew my team needed to score, so I just wanted to make contact," said Raines, who now has 12 homers this season.
It was the second dramatic postseason win of the week for the Lady Panthers, who needed extra innings to advance in the region semifinals and extend a season the four seniors have dedicated to the memory of their late coach, Tennessee prep softball legend Clifford Kirk, who died from heart complications in November.
"Clifford would've chewed us out for making these games so close and nerve-wracking, but we know he would've been proud of us for the way we keep fighting," said senior right fielder Shelby Sullivan. "Clifford had several heart attacks when he was with us, and I'd say we've given him a couple more up in heaven here lately."
A one-out single by Sullivan got the sixth-inning rally started, and Raines followed by drilling the first pitch she saw over the center-field fence to give the Lady Panthers a 2-0 lead.
After a leadoff homer by Oliver Springs' Megan Armstrong cut the Sale Creek lead in half to start the seventh, Olivia Day settled down to record her second strikeout of the game, then coaxed two soft flyouts to center to end the drama. Day tossed a three-hitter and was backed up by solid defense, particularly center fielder Allison Smith, who had eight putouts, including a diving catch to end the game.
Sale Creek (22-9) will host Greenback at 6 p.m. Thursday in a sectional with one of the four spots for next week's Spring Fling state tournament in Murfreesboro on the line.