By Maurice Patton
COLUMBIA – After rallying for four runs in the sixth inning to take control of Thursday’s Division II-A Middle Region winners bracket final softball matchup, Columbia Academy had to wait more than an hour to finish off its 5-3 victory over visiting Middle Tennessee Christian.
Before the seventh inning could get started, inclement weather that had been called for all day finally arrived, forcing a delay that concerned CA coach Seth Anderson.
“The momentum hit us right at the right time,” Anderson said of the offensive outbreak. “You could feel the energy change. I was really hoping the rain would hold off.”
Coming out of the 90-minute stoppage, Lady Bulldogs starter Averi Slaughter retired MTCS in order, getting a called strikeout to complete the comeback win.
“I think that storm hit us at the worst time possible,” Middle Tennessee Christian coach Julie Smith said. “I was feeling good until then. That strong wind, trees blowing sideways – I think that’s when they lost focus. It’s hard to be on defense in that situation.”
As the skies began to darken, the hosts began to refine their approach at the plate against MTCS starter Kyia Quigle.
“This being our third time to play them, we knew they were a good team,” Anderson said. “From 1 to 9 (in the batting order), they’re solid. The pitcher is good. She keeps you off balance with the changeup. We knew we’d have our work cut out for us.
“We were out in front, popping up. It took us being disciplined in the sixth. Karley’s been swinging the bat well. She looked for something fast and put a good swing on it; same thing with Tori. You try to eliminate one pitch, find something and sit on it.”
Columbia Academy (35-2) cut into a 3-0 deficit with Tori Duval’s two-out RBI double that scored Kennedy Chatman from first base in the bottom of the fifth. The Lady Bulldogs were unable to do further damage as, after Myleah Hardy was intentionally walked (the third of her four for the day), Journey Mitchell popped out to shortstop – one of CA’s 13 flyball outs for the game.
“I think we wanted to hit so badly that we swung at pitches that weren’t in our normal zone, like the changeups,” Duval said. “We didn’t expect her to throw it as much as she did.”
By the sixth, the hosts had their revamped game plan. A Chloe Carter leadoff walk set up a game-tying homer by Karley Harakas. Laney Turner followed with a base hit, and after Abbigail Adkins bunted courtesy runner Carolina Johnson up, Karli Quillin reached on a second bunt.
An out later, Duval unloaded with a triple, capping the four-run rally before the rain started.
Duval went 3-for-4 with a pair of triples, with Quillin adding a double and her bunt single to pace the hosts offensively. Slaughter struck out eight and walked four while giving up seven hits in the win.
“A lot of that was respect for their lineup,” Anderson said, addressing the walks. “Their leadoff hitter (Macy Smith), their No. 3 hitter (Rose Davis), they’re both really tough. You’ve got to choose where you attack.
“After that delay, Averi did a great job. She pounded the strike zone.”
The win, following a 4-3 victory on March 23 in Murfreesboro and an 8-1 decision at home on April 6, extended the Lady Bulldogs’ streak to 21. Middle Tennessee Christian (15-6-1), which advanced to the winners bracket finals by scoring seven runs in its final at-bat for a 9-7 victory Wednesday over Goodpasture, drops into the region tourney losers bracket finals on Monday, with CA set to play the winner on Tuesday.
Columbia Acad. 5, Middle Tenn. Chr. 3
M 100 020 0 – 3 7 0
C 000 014 x – 5 10 1
Kyia Quigle and Mandie Barrow. Averi Slaughter and Laney Turner. W: Slaughter. L: Quigle. HR: Columbia Acad. – Karley Harakas.