By Maurice Patton
MURFREESBORO – After some early controversy Thursday, Summertown put itself in position for a second Class A softball state championship in four years with a 2-1 victory over Huntland.
The Lady Eagles (34-2-1) will face the winner of Friday’s 9 a.m. losers bracket final between Huntland and Eagleville at 2 p.m. Friday, having to lose twice to fall short of matching their 2018 state title.
“We’re not comfortable,” said Summertown coach Greg Burleson, whose team also advanced to the 2019 state finals before falling to Columbia Academy. “We take it one game at a time. (If) you come relaxed, you’ll be going back home.”
The Lady Eagles found themselves in an unfamiliar position – quickly – Thursday. After outscoring early tournament foes North Greene and Eagleville 22-0, Summertown trailed 1-0 when Ashtyn Danley, the Lady Hornets’ leadoff hitter, hit a Claire Woods pitch to the fence.
Whether the ball went over or under the temporary fence was debated, but the umpiring crew counted it as a solo home run.
“They said it hit the top and went over,” Burleson said. “It hit in the middle, kinda folded the fence, and flipped through.”
It turned out to be the only run for Huntland (22-6) – though Danley kept the Lady Eagles frustrated offensively as well as defensively.
Summertown answered the Lady Hornets’ run in the top of the second inning, as Hannah Lindsey’s two-out grounder up the middle scored Lucy Ballinger from second base. Meg Parrott followed with a base hit to load the bases, but Hailey Jones grounded out to end the threat.
Parrott scored the go-ahead run in the fifth, reaching on an infield single and – after a wild pitch and a Jones base hit – crossing the plate on Caiti Beth Gallaher’s base hit to center field.
The Lady Eagles left the bags jammed once again, though, as Kaley Campbell reached on a two-out infield single before Ballinger grounded out.
“We didn’t hit the ball like we had (earlier),” Gallaher said. “I didn’t think she was too overpowering. Bunts we didn’t get down were almost costly. The runs we did manufacture were good, but we need to manufacture more.
“We’ve still got to keep hitting the ball like we know how, put some hits together and play ball.”
Woods shook off the early homer, allowing just two more hits while striking out 10.
“It puts us at ease when she’s out there,” said Gallaher, the Lady Eagles’ catcher. “She’s good.”
Summertown finished with 10 hits – all singles – with Gallaher, Parrott and Jones each picking up a pair. The Lady Eagles stranded nine baserunners, though.
“We stayed in it, but we missed some bunts,” Burleson said. “We had singles three different times after missing bunts. In one-run games, against good pitching and coaching, that’s going to get you.
Despite defeating Eagleville 9-0 on Wednesday before the nailbiter Thursday, Burleson anticipates a battle Friday – whichever District 8-A team emerges from Friday’s morning contest. The two teams have split six matchups this season.
Eagleville defeated North Greene 5-0 in the losers bracket semifinal Thursday.
“They’ve faced each other in the district, they’re familiar with each other,” Burleson said. “Whoever we face will be a good match.”
Summertown 2, Huntland 1
S 010 010 0 – 2 10 0
H 100 000 0 – 1 3 2
Claire Woods and Caiti Beth Gallaher. Ashtyn Danley and Mattie Danley. W: Woods. L: A. Danley. HR: Huntland – A. Danley.