Chris Armstrong had two main takeaways from Sweetwater’s 9-8 loss to Loudon in the second round of the District 5-AA tournament on Friday.
He was proud of the way his team played, knowing that it gave all it could. But he was also discontent with the outcome of the game, one that the Redskins won on a walk-off sac fly and featured controversy regarding umpire officiating.
“There’s a lot of plays that could have went different,” Armstrong said. “It’s hard to overcome. That’s the best way I know how to say it. My guys played their absolute tails off. Deserved to win, plain and simple, they deserved to win. We completely outplayed them all night. Can’t keep overcoming stuff.”
Armstrong and the Sweetwater faithful argued multiple calls they felt were wrong by the game’s umpires, including potential balks, ball-and-strike calls and whether or not runners were safe while running bases. The controversy became more and more of a trend as the contest continued.
“I can’t say what I think (the calls) should have been,” Armstrong said. “I just think that they had some unearned runs. Let’s leave it at that. Again, my guys absolutely played their butt off, absolutely deserved to win.
“I think we got that one stolen from us.”
Neither team scored until the top of the third inning, when Sweetwater took a 1-0 lead with an RBI single from junior Tyler Hall. Loudon took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth, though.
Senior Luke Mashburn batted in Hall on a triple in the top of the sixth to cut into Loudon’s lead, 3-2, and sophomore Briley Duggan scored Mashburn with a single to tie the game at 3-3.
Loudon produced four runs during the bottom of the sixth inning, taking a 7-3 advantage, but the Wildcats used a fielder’s-choice score by junior Jake Littleton, a two-RBI single by Hall and a senior Matthew Cooper homer to take an 8-7 lead heading into the final frame.
But the Redskins loaded the bases with one out, tied the game with a walk and then scored on the sac fly to win the game 9-8 on the walk-off, ending the high-scoring and highly-competitive contest.
Hall led the Wildcats with two hits and three RBIs. Freshman Jayce Upton had a team-leading three runs.
Sophomore Levi Presley started the game on the mound for Sweetwater and pitched 4.2 innings, allowing four hits, three runs and one walk and recording one strikeout. Duggan relieved him, going two innings and giving up five hits, six runs, two walks and three strikeouts.
The loss put Sweetwater on track to host Meigs County in its third game of the tournament on Monday.
“We’ve just got to refocus,” Armstrong said. “Don’t let this disappointing loss linger over. Just refocus. Like I said, we played as could as we can … deserved to win. So I don’t want them to change anything.
“Keep battling, stay hardnosed and bring it again.”
These aren’t your typical freshmen.
As the Tellico Plains softball team makes its way through the district tournament and the rest of postseason play, head coach Sharon McKinnon considers her first-year players just as much veterans as the rest of the squad.
“I’m very excited,” McKinnon said. “Just based on the fact that we are playing young girls but they are stepping in … maturity-wise, they are sophomores at this point. They’ve been freshmen.”
That maturity was on display Saturday, when the Lady Bears opened the 2019 postseason in the first round of the District 4-A tournament against Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences.
The game, hosted by Sale Creek, saw Tellico take a little while to get going offensively, but it did enough to secure the win and a spot in the tournament’s winners bracket.
CSAS scored one run in the top of the first inning and Tellico didn’t respond until the bottom of the fourth, when junior Kendra Watson batted in senior Alayna Hensley and sophomore Jocey Yates with a two-out double, putting the Lady Bears ahead, 2-1.
“I saw focus and confidence at the plate (from Watson),” McKinnon said. “And I saw some confidence from a couple of other girls that had been struggling at the plate but they hit the ball hard.”
Watson continued to dominate in the circle as well, holding CSAS scoreless through inning after inning. The Lady Patriots put a runner on second base with one out in the bottom of the seventh, threatening to tie the game, but Watson got a strikeout to put the Lady Bears within one out of winning the contest.
A CSAS hit notched runners on first and third with two outs, but Watson forced a flyout to record the win and move the Lady Bears on to face Sale Creek in the winners bracket. The game was scheduled for Monday.
McKinnon was particularly pleased with her younger players, whom she felt contributed well to Tellico’s efforts on Saturday.
“Some of our younger girls, like (Rhylea) McJunkin, came up and hit the ball really well,” Mckinnon said. “She’s a freshman, always puts it in play, laid down a good bunt.”
“I think this team,” McKinnon added, “if they will be patient and not be so eager and hit strikes that they like to hit rather than strikes that can be called strikes, I think they can make a run, especially with these five seniors.”