The Sale Creek Lady Panther softball team had Tellico Plains exactly where they wanted them in Tuesday night’s Region 2-A softball finals.
The two squads split regular season games, each winning on the other’s home diamond, and Sale Creek established a foot hold in last week’s District tournament title run taking down Tellico twice en route to the hardware.
And Tuesday night had a little bit of a déjà vu feeling to it in a battle between the two teams so familiar with one another.
The script was certainly a familiar one to Tellico Plains in that it got an early lead before watching Sale Creek string together a killer inning in what turned into a 5-1 championship win for the hosts.
“Very similar to the district finals, and I’m sure the girls were able to pull on that memory.
I think there was a feeling in the dugout that it they knew a big inning was coming, and when it got there, they knew what to do with it. We’re close. Just one win to go to get us to the state and that’s been the destination since we first got started back in the preseason,” said Clifford Kirk after the game.
The Lady Panthers improved their school-record win total to 32 against just five losses and will host the loser of Wednesday night’s Region 1-A battle between Unaka (26-12) and North Green (11-13).
Tellico Plains will travel to the winner with both games sending a winner to next week’s Spring Fling Class A state championships.
In the district final last week, Sale Creek fell behind 1-0 early only to push across three runs in back-to-back innings to finish off the comeback.
Last night, Tellico got off the bus and quickly assert itself. Caitlyn Morgan doubled to center field with two outs and Alayna Hensley followed with an RBI-single to left for a 1-0 lead.
Morgan sailed through the Sale Creek order setting down the first nine batters through three innings before allowing a leadoff infield single to speedy Hannah Hall. Leah Campbell followed with a walk which forced a pitching change.
Reliever Kendra Watson quickly got two outs before a passed ball allowed Hall to score from third and knot it. That momentum quickly carried over and Trinity Liner made it hurt, hitting the next pitch over the center field fence to push it to 3-1.
Madison Stott followed with a double and Macie Stanfield ripped an 0-2 pitch for a run-scoring
single to center. Allison Smith then got the fourth consecutive hit, an opposite field single to right to plate Stanfield and the five-run outburst was complete.
Sale Creek got all five of its hits and all five runs in the blink of an eye and with Stott scattering just six hits, striking out just two, the Lady Panther defense did the rest.
The win puts Sale Creek on the brink of the program’s second state title berth, both under the guidance of Kirk and both would have come in the last three years.
TELLICO PLAINS 100 000 0 – 1 6 0
SALE CREEK 000 500 x – 5 5 0
Morgan, Watson (4) and Whitmire; Stott and Baskette.
(Contact James Beach at email@example.com or via Twitter @beachnut1134)