KNOXVILLE —Two-time defending state champion Farragut staged a dramatic seventh-inning rally to tie the game and then handed Morristown West a heartbreaking 7-4 setback in nine innings Friday night to qualify for its eighth trip to the state softball tournament next week.
Anna French smashed a home run with two out in the bottom of ninth to give the Lady Admirals, now 32-5, the sectional victory ending the Lady Trojans season just one game shy of their first ever trip to the state.
It appeared West, which finished the year with a 22-12 mark, was going to the pull off a major upset when it took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning.
However, it just wasn’t to be as Farragut’s no. 9 hitter Amelia Dorset drew a walk to lead off the inning. It looked like losing hurler Briony Bunsic, who wound up pitching 25 combined innings in the region and sectional, had a strike out on a perfect-looking 2-2 pitch but it was called a ball. Bunsic struck out the next batter and right fielder Arlette Gutierrez made a great catch of a foul ball for the second out. Dorset, who had stolen second, tagged and moved to third on the play.
That brought slugger Elsa Morrison to the plate and she was intentionally walked for the fourth time. But Laney Shrader came through with a single up the middle to score one run with Morrison going to third. When the throw came in from the outfield, the ball was thrown behind Shrader going back to first and Morrison scored the tying run when the ball bounced away at first.
Ava Guzowski ripped another base hit putting runners on third but Bunsic kept the winning run from scoring by getting the next hitter to pop up to first base.
Winning hurler Emma McTavish, who got stronger as the game went along and retired the last 14 batters she faced, set the Lady Trojans down in order in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
The Lady Admirals had a runner in the eighth without scoring but won it in the ninth. Hailey Nichols led off with a double and Morrison, who entered the game with 23 home runs including two against West in an earlier tournament meeting, got her fifth intentional walk.
Shrader got a walk on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. It looked like West might escape when Gutierrez made another great catch in right and was able to double the runner off first base.
However, French blasted her fifth home run of the season on a 0-1 pitch to end it.
“It’s a really tough loss for these kids,” said Lady Trojans coach Heather Kelley. “I don’t want this lose to define the season we had.
“I’m really proud of what these girls have accomplished and for believing in each other.”
Kelley continued, “I’ll never be able to say enough about Bri. She had to pitch back-to-back days and three times this week with the broken finger and I’m just super proud of her. I don’t know what else she could have done. She did everything that was asked of her.
“I’m super proud of our seniors,” said Kelley. “They’ve had great careers for us and we’ll miss them. But they’ve really helped us build our program with two straight district championships and a sectional this year.”
It was the final game for seniors Jaelyn McDaniel, Aviah Bunsic and Gutierrez.
Kelley went on to say, “Farragut has a great program and did what they had to do at the end.
“What makes this so hard is we were right where we needed to be to win it but it just didn’t happen. I hurt for my girls and I know it’s really tough for them. But we had a really great season and I’m looking forward to next year.”
Farragut coach Nick Green said, “This was by far the toughest sectional game we’ve had in the three-year streak. West is a good softball team and she does a good job coaching them.
“Our kids battled hard in a pressure situation and came through to tie the game in the seventh,” he added. “West came out and hit the ball really well early in the game.
Green talked about McTavish. “She wasn’t at her best early but I thought she got stronger as the game went along, especially in those last three innings.
“We got some big hits when we just had to have them and I’m really proud of the girls for this one.”
West grabbed the early lead and held the upper hand all the way to the seventh. The Lady Trojans collected nine hits with Briony Bunsic and Kaylee Dyke leading the way with a double and single each. McDaniel also had a double while Aviah Bunsic, Hailey Milton, Cadence Beaver and Lexi Mullane added singles.
Shrader led the Lady Admirals with a home run and two singles while Rilee Kate Ragan had two singles.
McTavish didn’t issue a single walk in the nine innings and struck out nine. Bunsic struck out seven and wound up with eight walks counting the five intentional ones.
The Lady Trojans wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard. Bri led off with a double to left and Aviah followed with a single. McDaniel then blasted a double over the right fielder’s head to score both runners.
After Morrison was walked in the bottom of the first, Shrader drilled her sixth homer of the year to tie the game at 2-2.
With one out in the second Milton had a hit and Mullane had an infield safety. Bri singled in the go-ahead run.
West made it 4-2 in the fourth when Beaver had a bunt single and moved all the way to third as Mullane got on by an error. Bri Bunsic delivered a long sacrifice fly to right field to knock in the run.
Farragut left runners on second and third in both the second and third innings and had at least one runner in every inning except the fourth.
The Lady Trojans last chance to score came in the fifth when Dyke banged a one-out double down the line in left field. However, McTavish retired every batter she faced from that point on.
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