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Drama-filled ending as Tigers complete sweep of Santa Fe

By Chris Yow

SANTA FE — Shonda Rhimes couldn’t have written a better script.

With the bases loaded in the eighth inning, Mt. Pleasant’s Ben Newland walked Macon Adkison to load the bases for homestanding Santa Fe, but proceeded to get a strikeout and a looping line drive to second base to earn a save in a 10-9 win on Tuesday.

Santa Fe failed to get the timely hit in order to preserve a series split with Mt. Pleasant, leaving the bases loaded in each of the seventh and eighth innings. The Tigers earned the come-from-behind win and the only lead it held in the game was in the eighth.

“We got down big, but I told my kids not to give up on me and I wasn’t going to give up on them,” first-year coach Kennedy Mathis said. “I’m so proud of the fight and heart of this team.”

Coupled with the inability to garner a base hit with the bases loaded and a chance to win the game, Santa Fe committed five errors in the game

“You don’t deserve to win if you commit five errors,” Wildcats’ manager Rip Baxter said. “We had every opportunity to win this game and we didn’t take advantage of them.”

Baxter’s team jumped out to an early 6-0 lead in the second inning, culminating with a bases-clearing triple from starting pitcher Carter Seltz.

“We battled one at-bat at a time,” Mathis said. “They continued to put pressure on us, but our kids answered every time.”

Mt. Pleasant got three of those runs back in the top of the third and tied the game in the fourth at six. Brady Clark doubled, scoring a run to start the rally and Ryan Clark singled to score a run as well. The aggressive baserunning of the Tigers paid off, as Newland scored from third base during a pickoff attempt at second base to tied the game.

“That’s our game. We want to be aggressive and put pressure on our opponent,” Mathis said. “We want to make them throw the ball any time we can.”

Brady Clark finished the game 3-for-4 with three runs scored and three RBIs from the nine-hole.

“He’s a freshman, and I’ve been looking for someone I can go to in the nine-hole. He started swinging the bat well a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve stuck with him there,” Mathis said. “He keeps doing his job and we will keep sticking with him.”

As quickly as Mt. Pleasant tied the game, Santa Fe took control right back. Seltz drew a bases-loaded walk and Peyton Wilhelm was hit by a pitch to bring in a run. Seltz scored on a passed ball, which put the Wildcats up 9-6 by the end of the inning.

Despite the rough patch, Mathis held confidence in pitcher Hayden Holt, who’d relieved starting pitcher Ryan Clark in the second inning. Holt earned the win, though he was forced to give the ball up due to his pitch count in the eighth.

“Hayden was great tonight. I told him when I had to take him out that I thought he did a fantastic job, and to go play a great shortstop,” Mathis said. “That’s what he did.”

Baxter now must relay to his team the importance of next week’s series with Richland — one his team must sweep in order to earn their way into the top two of District 10-A.

“I told my guys that the beauty of baseball is tomorrow is another day,” he said. “But we have to wake up and get ready to play because we have to win.”

Preparing his team’s mindset following a sweep can be a difficult task, but despite a less-than-ideal start from Seltz on the bump, Baxter knows he can count on his senior to bounce back.

“Carter has played a lot of baseball, and he knows that good players don’t think about their last play whether it was good or bad,” Baxter said. “He will be ready to go next time out, and we are going to need him to be ready.”

Colton Steward threw four innings of relief, giving up two runs — none earned — on one hit and striking out seven. The Wildcat duo of Seltz and Steward combined for 15 strikeouts in the game, but it was Holt who took home the win.

He went six innings, giving up three runs on five hits and striking out six.

Photos by Chris Yow / SM-Tn Sports

Columbia American Little League celebrates Opening Day

By Chris Yow

COLUMBIA — When the decision was made to play the 2020 Columbia American Little League season, there was certainly some hesitancy on the part of some parents and league organizers.

With the success of the season, however, there was never a doubt the 2021 season would not only be played, but be played as normally as possible.

“Starting on time this season is such a big deal for our kids,” CALL president-elect Jason Cox said Monday, as the league held its opening day ceremonies. “We are excited to be out at the ballpark in April.”

Cox said there are more than 200 kids participating in the league this season, a number much closer to the 2019 season than last.

“We are so excited to see this many kids out this year,” he said. “Having these teams out tonight is awesome.”

Sunny Quinn, grandson of longtime CALL supporter and coach Freddy Bray, tossed the ceremonial first pitch.

Last year, the league decided not to offer traditional concessions, but opted for food trucks in the parking lots. Cox said that would continue in 2021 at the request of parents. The league makes up for the concession stand revenue by charging the food trucks a fee.

“The parents and kids love it because it’s a bigger variety of food, and the trucks love it because there are a lot of people out here on game nights,” Cox said.

Cox added that without the support of the league and team sponsors, there would not be a season.

“We couldn’t do this without the corporate sponsors, and we want to make sure they know how much we appreciate what they bring to Little League,” he said.

Photos by Chris Yow / SM-TN Sports

Lions close regular season with sweep of Shelbyville

By Chris Yow

COLUMBIA — With a a top-four seed in the District 8-AAA tournament on the line, Columbia Central’s Lady Lions mounted a 12-point comeback to close their regular season with a 53-47 win over Shelbyville at home on Thursday.

Missing a pair of key players — Janiyha Riley and Jalei O’Neal — the Lady Lions were forced to rely on some players deep off the bench for crucial minutes. Columbia Central coach Joshua Bugg was proud of the effort his team received from those players.

“It’s exciting to see those girls step up to the challenge,” he said. “We’ve battled some injuries and the world’s been weird with COVID, but we’ve had some close losses. Tonight we fought over that hump.”

With the win, Central will now host Lincoln County on Tuesday night with a region berth on the line. That wouldn’t have been the case if not for a big run to start the second half. The Lady Lions took their first lead of the game with 3:08 to play in the third quarter during a 17-4 run.

Josie Parks hit her first of two 3-pointers in the period to jump start the Lady Lions, and Ryleigh Hamm added a pair of long balls as well for the hosts during that run. Shelbyville, however, battled back to regain the lead going to the fourth quarter.

Six quick points to start the fourth quarter was enough for the Lady Lions to put pressure on the Eaglettes, and they held their guests to just eight points in the quarter to pull away late.

Bugg said this win will hopefully propel his team to greater heights past the district tournament. If they can match their second-half effort from Thursday, the head coach feels confident those goals can be achieved.

“We have to come out and play with the effort and intensity we had in the second half tonight,” he said. “It’s going to be exciting knowing that if we win on Tuesday we get a chance to play in the region tournament.”

Columbia Central girls 53, Shelbyville 47

S 11 12 16 8 — 47
C 4 8 24 17 — 53

Shelbyville (47) — Lilly Brown 6, Kelsey Harden 7, Paige Blackburn 17, Kendall Dearing 11, Zoe Reed 6
Columbia Central (53) — Saviya Morgan 3, Ryleigh Hamm 15, Josie Parks 18, Kiyanna Edwards 7, Jenice Bailey 8, Emma Hughes 2
3-pointers — Shelbyville 2 (Dearing 2), Columbia Central 10 (Ham 5, Parks 3, Edwards 2)

Martin leads Lions to tough win over Eagles

Celebrating his 1,000th point, which he scored on Monday night at Lawrence County, Q Martin showed he may just be getting started.

The junior guard poured in a game-high 20 points as the Lions earned their 10th district win of the season, a 61-50 decision over Shelbyville.

Despite nine first-quarter points from Martin, however, the hosts found themselves trailing 15-14 after one. A pair of Cam Johnson treys later, the Lions regained the lead with 1:54 to go in the second quarter and would never relinquish it.

“Playing three games in four days, I thought we might come out a little sluggish,” coach Nick Campbell said. “I got after them a little bit at halftime, but they responded well.”

Carter Szydlowski’s putback just before halftime was a big lift for the hosts, who came out and pushed their three-point halftime lead to seven and held a six-point advantage after three.

Thanks in part to a near-perfect effort from the free throw line, the Lions were able to extend their lead late to seal the win. Columbia Central was 13-for-14 from the stripe, including 7-for-8 in the final frame.

Campbell was pleased with his team’s effort both on Thursday and throughout the season.

“It’s awesome to see where these guys have come from the last couple of years and how they’ve bought into what we’re trying to do,” he said. “I’m proud of them, they deserve all the credit.”

Columbia Central boys 61, Shelbyville 50

S 15 9 12 14 — 50
C 14 13 15 19 — 61

Shelbyville (50) — Jayson Jones 13, Daman Heath 8, Timothy Parsons 5, Jailain Anderson 17, Terrance Johnson 3, Kyler Trice 4
Columbia Central (61) — Cam Johnson 8, Demetrius McCoy 4, Carter Szydlowski 2, Q Martin 20, Omari Franklin 6, Bubba Perkins 7, Roni Bailey 4, Jordan Davis 10
3-pointers — Shelbyville 6 (Jones 3, Anderson 2, Parsons), Columbia Central 7 (Johnson 2, Franklin 2, Perkins)

Photos by Sarah Yow / SM-Tn Sports

Summertown completes season sweep of Lady Mustangs

By Chris Yow

LORETTO — Catie Embrey has waited three years to get her first win at Loretto.

On Friday night, her Summertown team wasted no time making the experience an enjoyable one as the Lady Eagles never trailed in a 61-46 win to secure the District 12-A regular season title.

“Considering in the three years I’ve been (at Summertown), we’ve never beaten them here — this feels great,” Embry said following the win. “I told this group of seniors who have been with me since I started that I wanted them to never have to come back to Loretto.”

With this win, that will now be the case. With district tournament games being played at the higher seed, Summertown will now have home-court advantage for the tournament.

Summertown jumped out to a commanding lead in the first quarter, but Loretto didn’t make matters a breeze. The Lady Mustangs went on a 10-0 run, and rather than call timeout, Embry said she had faith in her team to battle through.

“My husband (assistant coach Preston) told me to call timeout, and I said no,” Embry said. “I knew they could handle it. The trust I have in them is very high.”

Katie Burdette cashed in on that trust and went to the other end, got a bucket and a foul. The junior post player knocked down the free throw, sparking a 22-2 run, and Summertown never looked back.

During that run, 12 of the Eagles’ 22 points came from the free throw line. With deadly accuracy, Summertown made the Mustangs pay for sending them to the charity stripe, finishing the game 27-of-34 from the line.

“We’ve lost a lot of games over the last three years because of free throws. I think these seniors took it personally, and worked incredibly hard to make sure they got better,” Embrey said.

Senior forward Hailey Jones led the Eagles in scoring with 14 points, 10 of which came from the line.

Karly Weathers was deadly herself from the line, hitting 10-of-13 from the line en route to a game-high 29 points. In the third quarter, she had 10 of her team’s 13 points.

Embrey said this team is special.

“I am so proud of this group of girls and what they’ve accomplished,” she said. “We have a lot more left to do this season, though.”

Summertown 61, Loretto 46

S 16 10 22 13 — 61
L 6 11 13 16 — 46

Summertown (61) — Kaley Campbell 6, Jenna Brazier 7, Hailey Jones 14, Rylee Long 12, Katie Burdette 5, Ansley Burleson 11, Reese Wilson 4, Karlie Campbell 2
Loretto (46) — Jenny Clifton 1, Julie Clifton 4, Madelyn Tidwell 2, Autumn Buttram 2, Karly Weathers 29, Laney Weathers 2, Kensey Weathers 4, Shelby Fisher 2
3-pointers — Summertown 4 (Kal. Campbell, Brazier, Long, Burleson), Loretto 2 (Ju. Clifton, Ka. Weathers)

Photos by Sarah Yow / SM-Tn Sports