By Chris Yow
MURFREESBORO — A game-long series of unfortunate events culminated for Summit in the eighth inning of Thursday’s Class AAA softball state tournament contest, as Farragut plated four runs in the extra frame to advance to the state finals and send the Spartan women to a Friday morning elimination game.
One of those unfortunate events started the fifth inning when Summit’s Ashlyn Easley safely reached first base on a ball that was ruled fair in front of home plate. Assuming the ball was foul based on where it was hit, she began to return to the batter’s box. A heads-up throw from Lady Admirals catcher Autumn Caywood to second baseman Emily Musco, who applied a tag, earned Farragut the first out of the inning.
“The tricky part is convincing teenage girls to let something go and move on to the next one,” Summit coach Jenny Stevenson said. “I felt like they did a pretty good job moving forward.”
The next inning, a pitch thrown behind Emma Beach’s head hit her bat and landed in fair territory, allowing Farragut to earn another out from a weird play. Summit fans argued the ball hit Beach in the helmet while she was in the box, so Stevenson inquired with her first baseman.
“I asked her what it hit, and she said, ‘My bat,’” Stevenson said. “If one of those things could have gone our way, it would have been nice.”
The Spartans did not do themselves any favors, however, as they stranded 14 baserunners in the game, including 10 in scoring position.
“I don’t know how many innings it was that we had an opportunity to win, but it felt like six or seven times we were one hit away from getting what we needed,” Stevenson said. “We didn’t take advantage, and their pitcher did a great job in the circle.”
Junior Avery Flatford was dominant at times for the Lady Admirals, going the full eight innings, giving up nine hits but only one run while striking out eight. Summit, meanwhile, started with Elena Escobar, who pitched four innings and gave up a run, but went with Lily Kate Richards in the fifth inning. Richards didn’t give up a run until the eighth inning when she gave up four — two earned — and took the loss.
“Nobody has been able to hit Elena like they did early today,” Stevenson said. “We went with LK because she really has a difficult spin, and it can handcuff heavy hitters.”
Escobar replaced Richards in the final inning and recorded all three outs to give herself a five-inning outing. There wouldn’t have been an eighth inning, however, if not for one timely hit in the bottom of the seventh. Hannah Sundberg doubled to lead off the inning, and down to their last strike of the game, Claudette Runk sent a shot to center field to drive in the tying run.
That was the only offense the Spartans could muster, though, and they will now face Coffee County in a 9 a.m. elimination game, but only a game away from the state finals.
“Our energy was just different today than it was yesterday,” Stevenson said. “Yesterday it felt like we knew we were going to win, and tonight we were just hoping we were going to win.
“I don’t know what switched in their minds, but we have to switch back and be confident. We’re not done yet.”