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It's a miracle!!!
May 21, 2007 12:00 am
Home plate represented Murfreesboro to Friendship Christian, and for most of Friday's sectional with Grace Baptist, it seemed just as far away.
With eighth-grade left-hander Lacye Walker keeping the Lady Commanders off balance with a 1-0 lead, it started to sink in for some that Friendship may not make the return trip to the State Tournament.
Suddenly, Jessi Couch answered a lot of Possum Town prayers with a seventh-inning home run and Amber Hunt slid home with the winning run minutes later on a wild pitch which produced a 2-1 triumph and tears of joy to a disbelieving team a good 10 minutes after the fact.
During the game, the home plate umpire told the Lady Commanders they couldn't get into their customary team hug before going out on defense at the start of each inning. But the men in blue weren't there to stop the hugging by players and fans alike on the field following the heart-stopper.
"Before Jessi went up to bat, I looked at her and I told her 'There is nobody else I would rather have the bat in her hands than her'," said an emotional Powell, who dropped to her knees in the third-base coaching box as Couch was being mobbed by her jubilant teammates at the plate.
Couch, a week after signing to play collegiately for Austin Peay, was speechless 10 minutes after the game.
"I was so nervous," said a breathless Couch, who stepped out and took a deep breath to settle herself before the fateful pitch which she hit into the hitting facility beyond the left-field fence. "It was so great.
"All I could think of when I went to bat was swing as hard as I could and whatever happens happens. It was a fastball on the inside corner. I really wanted it for Coach. The team we have this year is really special and we've worked hard all season and we want this so bad."
Following the leadoff home run and a strikeout, Kenzie Dye lined a single into left field and pinch-runner Hunt stole second and, following a hesitation, hustled to third on a wild throw into center field. With the plate, and Murfreesboro, so close and so far, Walker walked Carrie Fry and Shelby McDonald to load the bases.
After a strikeout for the second out, a pitch to Camille Cross sailed over the catcher's head and lodged in the fence as Hunt slid home for the school's most dramatic victory since the football team's second-round playoff win over Gordonsville in November.
"On a passed ball, I just told her to go and the ball got stuck in the fence and we scored," Powell said. "I don't even know what to say. That was God all the way right there.
"They never gave up the whole game, even when we were down, every single inning they were yelling. Every single inning they were screaming."
Walker, pitching like a Division-I signee rather than the eight-grader she is, held Friendship to singles by Cross and McDonald through the first five innings while striking out 11 for the evening. She also caught a line drive and stopped three comebackers to the circle.
She was also the Golden Eagles' top hitter, with a first-inning single and a third-inning home run to left which looked like it would be the difference. Even her out was a fly ball to Rachel Tyler in deep left field.
"We haven't seen a left-handed pitcher all year," Powell said. "She was throwing outside and offspeed and we couldn't hit that either. So we had to adjust and in the end, all it takes is one swing."
Despite Walker's hits, Friendship starter Hailey Rutledge was just as strong in the circle with three hits and no walks allowed while striking out eight. But after a leadoff double in the seventh, Powell brought Fry in from first base and a 6-3-5 double play extricated the Lady Commanders from the jam.
"That was huge," Powell said of the double play. "If they had scored another run, it would have been a whole different game."
Grace, playing a tough schedule, finished 18-19 for the season.
Friendship will face the winner of last night's Huntingdon-Trinity Christian sectional at 7 p.m. Tuesday at McKnight Field in Murfreesboro.
Coach's yell, Roark's pitching send Lady Bears back to State
MT. JULIET — Kacey Pedigo had one of those moments where she could see the words leaving her mouth were about to boomerang on her Mt. Juliet team during the fourth inning of Friday's sectional with visiting Ravenwood.
Instead, it blew up in the Raptors' faces as Merrick Martin scored the game's only run and Kenzie Roark won the double one-hitter 1-0 at Mt. Juliet League Park.
Martin reached on an error, stole second and went to third on a passed ball in the fourth. Amy Buwalda drew a walk and was replaced by pinch-runner Nichole Wheeler. Pedigo called for Wheeler to steal and when she thought the catcher was throwing to second, she yelled 'Go' for Martin to take off.
But the catcher was actually returning the ball to the pitcher, who was so startled by Pedigo's yell she missed the ball, enabling Martin to score safely.
"It was amazing," said Pedigo, whose defending state runner-up Lady Bears are returning to Spring Fling with a 43-9 record. "[Martin] was gone like a shot.
"Once I realizd what had happened, I thought 'We are dead in the water'. To our advantage, she missed the ball."
Ravenwood's pitcher didn't miss much else, allowing only a fifth-inning single to Caroline Mason while striking out eight.
"Their pitcher was throwing exceptionally well. She kept us off base," Pedigo said. "[Eight strikeouts are] a lot for us.
"Her speed wasn't what we had grown accustumed to over the last month."
The Lady Bears are accustomed to Roark's outing, a one-hit, one walk, 11-strikeout line.
Mt. Juliet will play the first game of the Class AAA State Tournament at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Starplex against the winner of yesterday's game between Bolton and Houston.
"We are very fortunate to be going back," Pedigo said. "We're excited but very grateful, all at the same time."
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.