Dreams for multiple athletes at Red Bank High School came true on a historic Saturday afternoon.
For the first time in school history, two of its athletic programs advanced to the Spring Fling TSSAA state tournaments as Wade Il Vento's boys' soccer team and Mandi Munn's softball team secured their quarterfinal spots in Murfreesboro just hours apart at home.
The soccer Lions provided late heroics first. Darien Ross and Jake Wright provided second-half goals, and the defensive effort was phenomenal in a 2-0 Class AA sectional victory over Dekalb County.
It's the first time Red Bank has advanced to state since back-to-back trips in 1998-99, and this year's Lions (11-5-1) will try to become the first team in program history to win a game at state when the Spring Fling begins Tuesday.
"Our defense was the key," said Il Vento, who is in his 12th season as coach. "We are not flashy, but we grind, work hard and try to dominate. That's what today was. Nothing pretty, just a great group showing determination. I told these guys that the word today was legacy. We are still working on it. This is a great win, and we are excited for the state tournament."
Later in the evening, Red Bank's softball team defeated Upperman 5-2 in dramatic fashion, scoring three runs in the sixth inning to break a tie and win its Class AA sectional.
Cassia Mitchell started the Lady Lions' rally with a bunt single to the left side of the infield, and Emma DeNio bunted the runner into scoring position. Red Bank (23-8) then caught fire at the top of the lineup as its senior stars took command.
Zoe Helms (2-for-4, two runs) hit what turned out to be the winning double to center field and was followed by Bailee Phillips (3-for-4, two runs) who had an RBI double to left, and Lexie Wright (3-for-4, two RBIs), who had an RBI single up the middle. Hailey Hanks also doubled for four Red Bank hits in a row.
Phillips proceeded to strike out the side on 11 pitches in the seventh to begin the celebration as she fanned 12 batters in the game and allowed just one earned run on three hits. The senior star now has 286 strikeouts this season.
Mandi Munn's team has now won eight straight games and will make the program first state tournament appearance since 2005, when the Lady Lions beat Collierville, Rossview, Beech and Soddy-Daisy to win a state title.
3 takeaways from Saturday:
Not this time
Gordon Lee's baseball team, after sweeping through the first three rounds of the GHSA Class A public school state playoffs, overcame losing the opener of its semifinal series to advance to the title series for the fourth straight tournament. After winning the first game against Metter 7-4 on Friday in Savannah, though, the Trojans lost the second game of that doubleheader 2-1 and gave up a three-run lead to lose Saturday's deciding game 6-5. A third state title eluded a senior class that Gordon Lee coach Mike Dunfee is sure to miss — and not just because of their talent — but he kept things in perspective after their final game under him: "It was a fun series. We just came up on the wrong end of it."
Versatile and talented
Two area track and field stars won TSSAA state decathlon championships earlier in the week during two days of competition at Austin Peay. McCallie's Michael May won the Division II-AA title with a whopping total of 6,563 points, and Brainerd's Montez Deloney won the Division I Small Class championship with 5,395 points. Signal Mountain's Kara Wilson was second in the state pentathlon for D-I Small.
In fine form
Sale Creek's softball team, after back-to-back one-run wins in the region semifinals and finals to start the week, rolled to a 6-0 win in their sectional against Greenback, securing a third straight trip to state. They're the lone local representative in Class A — and the AAA bracket is void of Chattanooga-area programs — but Red Bank will be joined AA by Sequatchie County, Silverdale Baptist Academy will represent in DII-A and three-quarters of the DII-AA field are local teams: Baylor, Chattanooga Christian and GPS are joined by St. Benedict, making the long trip from the Memphis area.
Saturday's prep scoreboard
Class A public
Metter 6, Gordon Lee 5
Class A sectionals
Merrol Hyde 3, Arts & Sciences 0
Signal Mountain 3, Smith County 2
Class AA sectionals
Howard 5, Cumberland County 0
Red Bank 2, DeKalb County 0
Class AAA sectionals
Columbia 1, Ooltewah 0
Oakland 1, Cleveland 0
Division II-A state quarterfinal
Boyd Buchanan 4, Lausanne 3
Division II-AA state quarterfinal
McCallie 4, Montgomery Bell Academy 1
Class A sectional
Sale Creek 6, Greenback 0
Class AA sectional
Red Bank 5, Upperman 2