The single was mightier than the home run Tuesday, at least in the late stages of the Region 3-AA high school softball semifinal at East Hamilton.
The Lady Hurricanes' six hits in their last two at-bats were all singles, but two provided two runs each. That helped offset the back-to-back homers by Polk County in its three-run seventh inning as East Hamilton held on for a 6-5 victory.
East Hamilton (23-14) will host fellow District 6 opponent East Ridge (15-21) in today's region final at 6 p.m. Today's winner will play at home and the loser will travel in Friday's sectional round, where winners advance to the Spring Fling.
The Lady Hurricanes trailed 2-1 heading to the bottom of the fifth inning, which began with consecutive bunt singles by winning pitcher Maria Walshe and Shaliyah Geathers. After an error on a sacrifice bunt in which Polk County coach Bill Triplett felt like an out should've been recorded at third, Kelsey Payne delivered a two-RBI single through the right side. Then McKenzie Mayes was able to dive by catcher Lily Cuzzort amid some confusion created by cleanup batter Taylor Harris's squeeze bunt that was barely fair in front of home plate.
Mayes' two-out, two-run single the next inning was the last of East Hamilton's 12 hits.
"It took us a while to adjust," East Hamilton coach Cara Stiles said. "I thought we hit the ball really well. We hit some deep flyballs that were caught. We're definitely going to have to outhit people, which we definitely can do."
Down to its last out, Polk County (24-14) got a two-run homer from Sydney Sloan followed by a shot near the same spot in left-center by Cuzzort before Walshe ended it with her fifth strikeout.
"We just didn't make the plays," Triplett said. "We gave them too many extra outs. I don't have any reservations saying they're a better hitting ballclub than we are. We knew we were going to have to play well. We knew we were going to have to hit the ball and knew we were going to have to score runs.
"I'm proud of them. They didn't always play smart, but they battled to the bitter end."
Stiles said Walshe has been bothered by a pulled pectoral muscle, but her stamina to get through seven innings had been good before Tuesday. The left-hander did not give up a walk and had allowed four hits and two unearned runs before the seventh.
Geathers went 4-for-4 and scored twice for the Lady Hurricanes. Amber Phillips was 2-for-3 and Payne was 2-for-4 with a double and scored the first run on a single by Harris.
Cuzzort and Danielle Harvey were each 2-for-4 for Polk County.
• East Ridge 2, Meigs County 1: At Decatur, Ashley Irvin earned the win and hit the tiebreaking home run in the fifth inning of the other 3-AA semifinal. The Lady Pioneers entered the game with a losing record but are still playing.
• Sequatchie County 12, DeKalb County 2: At Dunlap, Ashton Condra (14-1) allowed five hits and struck out seven in a Region 4-AA semifinal. The Lady Indians got 16 hits, including homers by Emily Dagnan and Brooklyn Girdley, who had three RBIs. Payton Carlton had a double and also drove in three for the Lady Indians (35-6), who host Upperman today.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or email@example.com.