By Maurice Patton
COLUMBIA – As of Thursday, the softball record book at Columbia Academy needs a rewrite.
Myleah Hardy pounded her way into a spot alongside CA Hall of Famer Shelby Burchell Tietgens with her two-run home run – her 16th of the season, matching Tietgens’ 2005 performance — in the opening inning of the Lady Bulldogs’ eventual 15-0, four-inning victory at Columbia Central.
“I think any athlete will tell you they want their name to be remembered, but I’m so excited for her,” Tietgens said of Hardy, the junior first baseman who transferred into the Columbia Academy program last fall from Lawrence County after hitting 10 homers as a Lady Wildcat freshman.
“As an athlete, I respect her, because I thought I was pretty good. It’s a hard thing to do, especially with who they play. You know people know her name.”
The Lady Lions certainly did, paying Hardy the ultimate tribute in her second plate appearance when they chose to intentionally walk her.
“Going in, we knew CA is a good hitting team,” first-year coach Hannah Cole said. “We know some of the girls personally.”
The third-inning strategy backfired, as Hardy scored on a Karley Harakas single during a seven-run rally that extended the visitors’ lead to 10-0.
“We couldn’t get our bats moving like they needed to be,” Cole said.
Offense clearly wasn’t a concern for Columbia Academy (31-2), as they picked up nine hits and drew as many walks against Central’s Kiera Gill and Wiggy Buchanan, who came in during the third inning.
“If we can score one run an inning, we feel really good about our chances with our defense and pitching,” CA coach Seth Anderson said. “These girls have done a great job of working each game to get better. I think we’ve done a really good job the last two weeks in particular of progressing.”
Count Hardy among those “progressing”. Seven of her 16 homers have come in the Lady Bulldogs’ last eight games.
“I put in work, three or four times a week,” she said. “Knowing I’ve worked my but off in the offseason, this feels great. But I know I have more room to improve. I’m not satisfied with myself.
“Before the season, I set a goal for myself. I wanted to beat the record.”
And she knew when she did.
“When it came off my bat, I knew it was gone,” she said.
Anderson agreed that the results are no surprise, considering the effort Hardy has put forth.
“She’s been on a tear. She’s seeing it really well,” he said. “But the impressive thing is to watch her work in batting practice before games. She’s trying to improve with each swing.”
That’s the mindset that will be vital in Hardy continuing to keep pace with Tietgens – who went on to play collegiately at the University of Tennessee.
“If she keeps hitting like that, she definitely has a chance,” Tietgens said. “But (the work) is got to be what you want to do on the days you don’t want to get up and do it.
“She definitely has the talent.”
Columbia Central freshman Saviya Morgan had her team’s lone hit, a one-out single in the bottom of the first. She was stranded at third base, and the Lady Lions managed just one other baserunner the rest of the way.
Central (8-10) resumes play Friday at Spring Hill. Columbia Academy has concluded its regular season and will open Division II-A Middle Region Tournament on April 29 against the winner of Tuesday’s Battle Ground Academy/Donelson Christian opening-round contest.
Columbia Acad. 15, Columbia Central 0 (4 inn.)
CA 217 5 – 15 9 0
CC 000 0 – 0 1 2
Averi Slaughter, Journey Mitchell (4) and Laney Turner. Kiera Gill, Wiggy Buchanan (3) and Addison Maurer. W: Slaughter. L: Gill. HR: Columbia Acad. – Myleah Hardy (16).
Photos by Ric Beu / SM-Tn Sports