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FCS, MJ walk off with season-saving wins
May 28, 2007 12:00 am
MURFREESBORO — In one of the most memorable days in Wilson County high school softball history, Friendship Christian and Mt. Juliet played for their seasons in concurrent games on adjacent fields – twice.
And both are in the loser's bracket finals in their respective State Tournaments at Starplex.
Hailey Rutledge hurled a 2-0 shutout for Friendship over Whitwell in Thursday's noon Class A game while on the other side of the press box/concession stand, Mt. Juliet's Kenzie Roark was turning in another gem in a 6-0 Lady Bear win over Brentwood.
But that was nothing compared to the afternoon tilts.
Folks trying to keep up with both games endured double suspense [triple if you also followed a Division II game going on at the same time] as Carrie Fry's bloop single in the bottom of the seventh inning scored Jessi Couch to lift the Lady Commanders to a 6-5 win over East Robertson.
A short time later, Merrick Martin broke open a scoreless pitcher's duel with a ninth-inning triple and scored on Karli Rush's walk-off single through a drawn-in infield for a 1-0 Lady Bear win over Knoxville Central.
Both will play at 10 a.m. today in the loser's bracket final. Friendship will face Forrest, which lost to defending Class A champion Trinity Christian 2-1 in Thursday night's winner's bracket final. Mt. Juliet will get a rematch with Riverdale, which fell 2-1 to defending AAA champ Soddy-Daisy. This morning's winners will advance to this evening's championship round. Class A will play at 5 p.m. and AAA at 6:30. FCS and MJ need two wins today to force the "if necessary" game for the title Saturday.
Friendship needed some offense to get past East Robertson as the Lady Indians got to both Hailey Rutledge and Carrie Fry.
But while Fry didn't get the win in the pitcher's circle, she provided it from the batter's box as her popup eluded the left fielder and shortstop in short left field and Jessi Couch slid home with the winning run to lift the Lady Commanders to 37-10.
"From the first time we played them, they've always been a good-hitting team," Lady Commander coach Erica Powell said of the Lady Indians. "They're going to hit the ball hard and they're like us, they don't give up and they fight hard to the end. I was more scared about this game than I am about the game [today] because this is a great team right here. They're well coached.
"In the end, it came down to we got a few good calls and hit the ball when it counted."
Couch drew a one-out walk in the seventh and moved up on Kenzie Dye's single. A walk to Lindsay Farmer filled the bases for Fry, whose popup could have been a forceout as the runners had to hold. But when the ball wasn't fielded cleanly, the runners were able to advance a base.
"In four years, Carrie hadn't hit until this year," Powell said. "I've had the bat in her hands the past few games and she's come up with huge hits to score runs and I knew she was going to do it. I had total confidence in her."
Rutledge, who allowed five hits and struck out 10 against Whitwell, started off well against East Robertson and had a 2-0 lead going into the top of the fourth inning. But an infield bloop double which was allowed to drop and a walk led to a single to center by Meg Krisle, who went 3-for-3 [including a bloop triple down the right-field line in the second]. But Camille Cross threw a strike to Couch at the plate to nail Amelia Eden. But pitcher Chelsea Carter followed with a shot which almost ripped the glove off Kenzie Dye's hand at third to tie the score.
Fry came on to pitch the fifth and retired the side in order but ran into trouble in the sixth, allowing a single and a walk before Powell waved Rutledge back in from center field. Krisle hit a two-run single and Carter a tying sacrifice fly.
A line-drive double play bailed Rutledge out of further damage in the seventh.
"These games have been so long and dramatic and it's hard on the pitchers physically and mentally," Powell said. "The thing with my two pitchers is they work so well together and if I have to pull one for the other, they're the one in the field screaming as loud as they can for the other. So we just found ways to get out and make great plays."
Friendship jumped to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third with two out. Cross walked and Kelcey Lee was hit by a pitch. Rutledge walked to load the bases for Couch, who bounced a ground-rule double over the temporary fence in center field to score two runs.
The Lady Commanders got two more an inning later to break the 2-2 tie. Singles by Fry and pinch-hitter Brooke Klinefelter sandwiched around a walk to Shelby McDonald loaded the bases with one out. Cross grounded to first baseman Eden, whose throw home was too lake to get pinch-runner Amber Hunt. Lee followed with a sacrifice fly to right.
Friendship tacked on another run in the fifth on back-to-back, one-out doubles by Dye and Farmer.
East Robertson wrapped up a 34-12 season.
Against Whitwell, Couch singled in the fifth and scored on Fry's double. Rutledge raced out an infield hit in the seventh and scored on Dye's single to left as the Lady Tigers ended a 25-14 season.
Hours after exploding for six runs to oust Brentwood, Mt. Juliet had trouble getting even a scratch score against Knoxville Central.
But the Lady Bobcats could do no better against Roark, who racked up 17 strikeouts.
It was finally Kandice Irwin who blinked first in the bottom of the ninth when Merrick Martin lined a one-out triple up the right-field alley. Rush lined a single to left to finally end it.
"I was ready to get that base hit," said Rush, who went 3-for-4 against Irwin. "It's been kind of a struggle for me the last couple of weeks to get the ball in play. But I still knew I could do the job."
"When I saw that ball come off Merrick's bat, as far as that ball went, there's no way you hold Merrick to two," Mt. Juliet coach Kacey Pedigo said after her Lady Bears moved to 46-10. "She's quick, she can run, she's smart on the bases.
"And then they were playing up for the bunt for Karli? Karli can hit the ball. She just did what came naturally to her."
Both pitchers turned in iron-man performances. Roark racked up nine strikeouts in six innings against Brentwood before turning in her two-hit gem in the late afternoon.
"It's amazing [to catch Roark]," said Rush, who has signed with Trevecca. "She is a really good pitcher. She's really focused. She likes to get the job done. She gets over little struggles so it's good to catch her."
Irwin, who surrendered seven hits and no walks, struck out 11 Lady Bears hours after pitching Central [33-12] to a 3-1 win over Powell earlier.
"Kenzie's a workhorse," Pedigo said. "Their pitcher also threw this morning. So for both of them, this is their second game and to go as far as they did, there's something to be said for both of them."
Mt. Juliet, which lost twice to Soddy-Daisy in last year's championship round, is back in the round of three.
"Top three is not enough," Pedigo said. "Not many teams get second chances very often and this is a second chance for us. No matter who we get in the morning, Soddy or Riverdale, we know it's going to be hard. We know we have our work cut out for us. But that's okay. That's what we know is hard work."
Against Brentwood, Hannah Irwin and Rush singled for 2-0 leads in the big third before Shelby Barrett belted a bases-loaded triple to break the game open. Amy Buwalda singled home Barrett.
Shelby Morris gave Roark a break in the seventh and completed the combined three-hitter, striking out two.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.