MURFREESBORO — Jefferson County took different paths to two victories in the TSSAA Class AAA State Softball Tournament on Tuesday. However, both of those paths were familiar to the Lady Patriots.
In their opener, the clutch home run bat of Abbie Ferguson supplied the winning runs in the bottom of the sixth for a 3-1 triumph over Knox Halls. Coach Hillary Love’s team then scored three times in the bottom of the first inning and that was more than pitcher Catelyn Riley needed as she hurled a four-hitter in an 11-1 rout of Dyer County.
With the pair of victories, the Lady Patriots advanced to the winner’s bracket final where they will meet Siegel tonight at 6:30 Eastern. Siegel reached that point with a 4-0 win over Dickson County on Tuesday and a 6-0 victory over Springfield on Wednesday.
It was the third postseason game the booming bat of Ferguson has supplied as the also had the game-winner in wins over Morristown East in both the district and region tournaments. She now has six for the season.
In the second game, the Lady Patriots collected 10 hits with nine of those coming from the 2-3-4-5 spots in the batting order. Erica Lewanski had three hits and knocked in five to lead the way and Makayla Alvey homered.
Meanwhile, Riley was in control of the Lady Choctaws’ bats as she allowed just two baserunners in the first five innings as her team rolled out to a 5-0 lead.
Riley, who was much sharper than in her first-game victory over Halls, lost her shutout in the final frame when a pair of walks led to the losers getting on the scoreboard. Those were the only two she walked and she had three strike outs.
Jefferson County improved to 24-10 for the season while Siegel will bring a gaudy 41-7 slate into today’s game. Halls bounced back to eliminate Ooltewah later in the day and is now 31-7 heading into this morning’s elimination game with Springfield, while Dyer County is 27-14-1 and was scheduled to face Dickson County in an elimination game this morning as well.
Love said it was two huge wins for her program. In talking about the opening win, she said, “What can you say about Abbie coming through for us again? Catelyn got the big two-out double and Abbie delivered for us again. She’s done that quite a bit in the tournaments.
“But we also got a couple of big hits from Makayla and Santana (Hall) for our other run.
“We knew Halls could hit the ball well and that it would be a tough game,” she said. “I don’t know that Catelyn pitched her best game but she pitched plenty well enough to win and we played good defense behind her. In fact, I thought we played very well on defense in both games.”
Love said the second game was a lot easier on the coaches. “When you come out and score three in the top of the first, it kind of takes the pressure off of you.
“I thought we hit the ball pretty well and Catelyn was definitely sharper on the mound, and again we made some plays behind her and that always helps,” said the coach. “She did a great job.”
Love closed, “Now we have to come out here tomorrow and continue to play well and just see what happens.”
In the opening game, Halls got back-to-back hits from Tanna Hensley and Cassie Norris in the first inning but Riley fanned the cleanup hitter and got the third out on a pop up to first.
Jefferson County got hits from Lewanski, Ashley Whitley and Stephanie Steele in the second but couldn’t score and the Lady Devils stranded two more in their half of the frame.
Alvey doubled with one out in the third and scored on Hall’s single to left to put Jefferson County up 1-0. That stood up until the fifth when Brianna McMillan walked and wound up scoring on a wild pitch with the bases loaded.
After losing pitcher Bri Blair retired the first two batters in the sixth, Riley ripped a double into the gap in left center and Ferguson slugged her home run to left field.
Riley retired the side in order on three pop-ups to end it.
Neither team had a player with two hits as Jefferson County wound up with seven safeties and Halls five.
The Lady Patriots were never really threatened in the second game. Jessica Odom walked to lead off the game and went to second on a wild pitch. She moved to third on a bunt single by Alvey who went to second when nobody covered the bag.
Hall singled in a run and took second on the throw and Lewanski smacked a single to score two more for a 3-0 lead.
Alvey hit her second round-tripper of the season leading off the third and Steele had an infield hit and scored on a sacrifice fly by Alvey in the fourth to make it 5-0.
A walk, two hit batters and an error led to the Lady Patriots added two in the sixth without a hit and they broke scored four more as Lewanski and Riley singled in two runs each in the seventh.
Dyer County got its run as Katie Willis and Emily Edgin both drew bases on balls and Brooklyn King singled with two outs.
Lewanski’s three hits led the Jefferson County attack while Alvey, Hall and Riley all added two. King had two for the Lady Choctaws.
Payton Reasons was the losing hurler.