By Maurice Patton
MURFREESBORO – Well aware that her chances to swing the bat may be limited, Myleah Hardy intends to take full advantage of her opportunities as the season winds down.
The Columbia Academy junior went 2-for-3 Wednesday, sparking an eight-run fourth-inning rally with her 20th home run of the season as the Lady Bulldogs advanced into the Division II-A softball state tournament finals with an 11-0 five-inning victory over Tipton-Rosemark.
“I definitely did not expect anybody to pitch to me (this week) if they did their homework,” said Hardy, who holds the school’s single-season record for homers and is hitting .518 with 65 RBIs as CA improved to 40-2 with its 26th straight win. “But you get surprised every now and then.
“That was a big hit. It really set the tone. You could see their body language slump down.”
The tone for Wednesday’s matchup may have been set even earlier than Hardy’s longball over the center-field fence, as Tipton-Rosemark (34-9) managed just three hits in four innings against CA starter Averi Slaughter.
“I thought Averi did a great job, again, of getting ahead,” Columbia Academy coach Seth Anderson said. “She really hit her spots. And when they did put it in play, they were manageable.”
The Rebels’ best scoring opportunity came in the top of the fourth, as Ali Naumann and Ryleigh Bowers singled and doubled with one out. A foul flyout and a strikeout – Slaughter’s seventh of the game – squelched the threat, and the Lady Dawgs broke the game open in their following at-bat.
“That’s a really good ballclub,” TRA coach Johnie Sanfratello said. “They’re 40-2 for a reason. You know it’s going to be a battle. We’ve got to do more offensively than we did. We didn’t make very good adjustments at the plate.”
CA had 12 hits on the day, with Chloe Carter doing the bulk of the damage early – driving in a pair of first-inning runs on a base hit and another with a third-inning single, before the Lady Bulldogs sent 13 hitters to the plate in the fourth.
Journey Mitchell and Abbigail Adkins (double) each added a pair of hits, as Columbia Academy stranded just seven runners in the victory and moved within one of its second consecutive state title, following their 2019 Class A championship.
“We did a great job, but we still haven’t won a championship,” Anderson said. “We still have work to do.
“I’ll try to be as picky as I can. We scored 11 runs, but I guarantee I can go through that lineup and find some things we can be better at. We just need to clean up the details.”
At 4 p.m. Thursday, the Lady Bulldogs will face the winner of the 10 a.m. losers bracket final between Tipton-Rosemark and Silverdale – an 8-5 winner Wednesday over Jackson Christian.
Sanfratello has his own details to address, particularly in another potential meeting against CA and Hardy.
“Her first at-bat, we hit our spots; that’s OK,” he said as Hardy singled and later scored. “But we did not want her to be able to get a barrel (on a ball) there (in the fourth inning). You can’t let her have the opportunity to extend. If the worst thing we do is walk her, that’s not going to hurt us. We missed a spot there.”
Columbia Acad. 11, Tipton-Rosemark 0 (5 inn.)
TR 000 00 – 0 3 2
CA 201 8x – 11 12 0
Charli Rice, Addie Glass (4) and Myah Wright. Averi Slaughter, Journey Mitchell (5) and Laney Turner. W: Slaughter. L: Rice. HR: Columbia Acad. – Myleah Hardy (20).