For Tellico Plains softball head coach Sharon McKinnon, everything was in place for the Lady Bears to claim the Region 2-A championship last Wednesday, May 15.
The focus was there, as was the pitching and the personnel.
In the end, however, failing to capitalize twice with the bases loaded and a four-run inning from hosting Sale Creek was too much for Tellico to overcome in a 5-2 loss.
The defeat moved the Lady Bears into a sectional elimination contest against Unaka in Elizabethton on Friday, May 17.
“When you have bases loaded and you come away with no runs, you have learn something about yourself every time you step to the plate,” McKinnon said. “I kept telling them, ‘Two runs is not going to win this.’
“We had the right people to get some hits, but I think we were a little impatient. Overall, we’ve got to do a better job of working the pitch count.”
After a scoreless first two innings, Tellico drew first blood in the top half of the third inning.
Rhylea McJunkin led off the frame with a single into left field, which was followed up by a drawn walk from Maddie Dodson to put two on with nobody out. Two at-bats later, Ireland Whitemire launched a ball off of the wall in left field for an RBI stand-up double.
The Lady Bears loaded the bases after a pair of walks, and a MacKenzie Armstrong walk brought in another run from Whitmire to put them ahead, 2-0.
“We hit better in the third,” McKinnon said. “The faster the pitch, the better we hit, it seems. It was just timing. We did have the right people up. Those seniors came around and put the ball in play. They did a good job.”
Tellico had an opportunity to add to that lead with the bases loaded and two out, but a strikeout ended the threat.
The Panthers answered in the bottom of the third with an RBI single to cut the Lady Bears’ lead to 2-1, but Tellico once again squandered an opportunity by coming up empty by leaving the bases loaded in the fourth. It would come back to haunt the Lady Bears in the following frame.
“When you get six people on base, you should win,” McKinnon said. “The focus was good, the intensity was good, but when we get opportunities to score runners, we have got to be more disciplined at the plate.”
After back-to-back walks, Sale Creek had runners on first and second, setting up a three-run home run to give the Panthers their first lead of the game, 4-2. They plated another off of an RBI groundout to take a 5-2 lead.
Despite her struggles in the fourth, McKinnon was pleased with Kendra Watson’s overall performance in the circle.
“Kendra Watson pitched a heck of a game,” McKinnon said. “Just that one inning, she gave up two walks. Just two more strikes and we’re out of that inning.”
Watson finished with three strikeouts in over six innings of work.