published Friday, May 24th, 2013

Lady Hurricanes wind up fourth

East Hamilton softball players congratulate Maggie Woods after her home run against Unicoi County.
East Hamilton softball players congratulate Maggie Woods after her home run against Unicoi County.
Photo by Doug Strickland.
May 20-24, 2013 Murfeesboro, TN

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — East Hamilton outlasted its first opponent Thursday in the Class AA high school softball state tournament but couldn't outslug its second.

The Lady Hurricanes squeezed past Unicoi County 10-9 in eight innings. But a six-run sixth-inning uprising by Lexington, all after two were out, broke open a close game and the Lady Tigers defeated East Hamilton 13-5.

Lexington (45-6) will play Chester County for the eighth time this season in today's losers-bracket final at 10 a.m. EDT. The winner faces Goodpasture in the final.

The Lady 'Canes were tied at 4 before Lexington rallied for three runs in the fifth inning. Kelsey Payne's solo blast to right made it 7-5. East Hamilton's Tori Barnes, Amber Phillips and Emma Brooks homered earlier in the game.

"Every person I talked to about East Hamilton would say, 'You've got to watch her. She can hit it out. And you've got watch her.' Then the game started and they started hitting it out," Lexington coach Ronnie Burke said. "I can see they can hit anybody."

Then Lexington's offense erupted the next inning.

"We're averaging about nine runs a game," Burke said. "I've got probably the smallest, biggest-hitting team there is."

East Hamilton (27-14-2) made three errors, but only the one in the six-run inning factored into the scoring.

"They have a very good hitting team," Lady 'Canes coach Cara Stiles said. "They just killed the ball. Yeah, they beat us. But they did it hitting the ball. We didn't beat ourselves."

The Lady 'Canes had a 9-6 lead going to the seventh inning against Unicoi County, but two home runs later -- the second by Brooke Strother with two out and one on -- the Lady Blue Devils tied it. The solo shot was by Tiffany Laughren and was her 23rd, a single-season TSSAA record.

Laughren was walked intentionally in the top of eighth with two on and one out, but pitcher Maria Walshe worked out of the jam by getting a force at home and another at third.

Starting with Shaliyah Geathers' double, the Lady 'Canes loaded the bases with one out in the bottom half. Then they surprised the Lady Blue Devils when cleanup batter Walshe dropped down a bunt and Geathers with a headfirst slide beat the shovel throw to the plate.

Geathers, who has signed with Tennessee, was 5-for-9 on the day, including a single in her last at-bat in an East Hamilton uniform.

Stiles had announced her resignation before the season started and beginning in September will embark on an 11-month Christian evangelism trip.

"It's hard because I'm going to miss my girls," Stiles said. "I care about them, and I love the game. I'm so proud of them. We did more than anyone thought we could do. Fourth place isn't bad."

Contact Kelley Smiddie at ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.

about Kelley Smiddie...

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 ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com.

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