The South Greene softball team will be playing for a region title for the first time since 2016 after it made handing a good Union County team a 9-4 loss look easy on Monday evening.
“We came hitting the ball,” South Greene coach Amy Hawk said. “We knew they had a good pitching staff. We knew they were a tough team, you don’t get this far without having a tough team. We knew they would start hitting the ball at some point, but we persevered. We did what we needed to in the end to get to keep playing.”
The Lady Rebels now move on to the Region 1-2A title game on Wednesday where they will take on Alcoa at home. Monday’s win also sends South Greene to the Class 2A State Sectionals on Friday. Wednesday’s game will determine whether South Greene stays at home or travels on Friday.
“I am so happy for these girls and these coaches that have been with them for a long time,” Hawk said. “It’s great for our school to be playing for a region championship. It’s a good place to be. We just have to keep doing what we have been doing, hitting the ball when we need to hit the ball.”
The Lady Patriots posed a threat from the start on Monday when they loaded the bases with one out in the top of the first inning. South Greene pitcher Lexi Miller was able to get out of the jam by forcing a fly out to Allison Penley in left field and ground out to third baseman Sydney Gentry.
In the second inning Ava Biggs led off the side with single and moved to third with two outs, but again Miller got out of the jam with a simple pop up.
In total South Greene left 10 Lady Patriots stranded on base on Monday, and it eliminated three runners more from the base path.
“We played pretty tight defense,” Hawk said. “It was big to get out of those spots early. You drop one ball and they score two or three runs, because those runners are going in those situations. Those plays on defense were big.”
South Greene’s offense got going in the bottom of the second when Anna Willett led off by screaming a ground ball straight up the middle.
Katie Willett then found the right-center gap and Amelia Mullins sent a chopper through the left side to load the bases. A bases loaded walk by Hannah Penley pushed across the first run for a 1-0 lead.
That lead grew in the third inning started by Evie Rader who sent line drive into shallow centerfield. A walk and a sacrifice bunt by Allison Penley put Rader on third. Then with two outs Katie Willet dropped a pop up short of the shortstop that she beat out for a single that also allowed Rader to give South Greene a 2-0 lead.
On the day Katie Willett led the Lady Rebels by going 3-for-4 at the plate. Gentry was 2-for-3 with a double, Anna Willett was 2-for-3 and Reader was 2-for-4. As a team South Greene earned 11 hits.
South Greene opened the game up with five runs in the fourth inning. Hannah Penley was hit by a pitch to lead off the side. Whitney Casteel followed with a line drive to left field and Miller reached on an error that loaded the bases.
Gentry then knocked in the first run by dropping a single into shallow left field and Casteel scored when Rader hit into fielder’s choice.
Anna Willett hit a ground ball that was booted by the second baseman to score one more run, and Katie Willett pushed the lead to 7-0 when she smacked a two-RBI single through the right side.
“We batted around that inning, and Hannah got us started by being hit by a pitch,” Hawk said. “She is the one that got it going, and we knew if we made contact good things would happen. We worked on it yesterday with the pitching machine, but we thought if we hit the ball that it would go.”
Two strikeouts started the bottom of the fifth inning, but then South Greene rallied to push two more runs across the plate. Miller reached on a walk and Gentry scored her from first by slamming a double deep into the right-center gap. Gentry went to third on the throw to the plate and scored a single by Rader for a 9-0 lead.
Union County got on the board in the sixth inning. Morgan Dyer got a two-out single past Miller in the circle to begin things, and she scored on a line drive to right field.
The Lady Patriots started a rally in the seventh inning and plated three more runs, but the hole was too big to climb out of.
Aleyia Satterfield started the side by reaching on an error and Blakely Hall followed with a line drive to shallow centerfield.
Both runners scored when Emma Sexton sent a double to the left-field fence. Sexton scored when Dyer beat a ground ball to the shortstop that closed the gap to 9-4.
Miller earned the win from the rubber. In seven innings she struck out one, walked three and gave up nine hits. Six of those hits came in the final two innings.