BENTON — A pair of final at-bat rallies, including four doubles, a home run and a half dozen runs scored by the two teams, provided plenty of excitement at the foot of the Smoky Mountains Friday evening.
Facing off for the second time in eight days, Polk County and Bradley Central squared off on the softball diamond, with the Lady Wildcats falling behind in the top of the seventh inning but coming back to claim a hard fought 7-6 victory with Ashton Johnson providing the game-winning hit. Polk won the previous meeting by a 12-6 tally.
“I’m proud of the way we battled back,” praised Lady Wildcat head coach Bill Triplett after the Senior Night victory. “We’ve been finding ways to win all season, and we did it again tonight. Our hitters bailed us out tonight.”
Polk County (20-5, 8-0 District 5-AA), which split a doubleheader at Harriman Saturday, will be on the road again Monday and Tuesday with a trip to Chattanooga to face Boyd-Buchanan and to Decatur to take on Meigs County respectively. The Lady Wildcats will also play home-and-away games with Tellico Plains later in the week before going into the District 5-AA Tournament as the top seed, meaning it will host the winner of the Sweetwater-Loudon play-in game on May 5.
With a Monday game at Grace Baptist canceled, Bradley Central (8-14, 3-9 District 5-AAA) will now prepare for the District 5-AAA Tournament beginning Friday at Cleveland High. The pairings and game times will be set at the coaches’ meeting on Wednesday.
Polk County struck first in Friday’s contest, putting a pair of runs on the scoreboard in its first at-bat. After forcing the visitors to strand a pair of base runners in the top of the first, the Lady Wildcats got a one-out infield hit by Kate Williams, who then stole second and scored on a Bearette throwing error that allowed Hannah Triplett to advance to second base. Emily Bates then drove Triplett home with a two-out single.
Bradley cut the lead in half after Abbey Abernathy stroked the first of her three hits on the day to lead off the top of the second frame. Although credited with a single, Abernathy advanced all the way to third base when the ball got past the Polk outfielder and rolled all the way to the fence. She scored on a one-out bunt by Britlee Ogle.
The Lady Wildcats took advantage of a pair of free passes to open the bottom of the third to put a pair of runs on the board. Hannah Triplett drew a walk and Hannah Withrow got nailed by a pitch and both advanced on an infield hit by Bates to fill the sacks. Johnson then drove in her first two runs of the contest.
Once again Bradley trimmed the deficit to a single run with a two-run rally in the top of the fifth. Emmaly Morgan beat out an infield hit and Kallie Hawkins stroked a solid single to left. Both moved up on a passed ball, setting the stage for a two-run, two-out single by Abernathy.
The Bearettes took the lead in the top of the seventh frame. Hawkins opened the final inning by blasting a solo shot well over the left field fence for her second round-tripper of the season to tie the contest. After Abernathy laced a one-out single, was bunted into scoring position by Olivia Williams, Ogle and Chanler Grady drilled back-to-back RBI-doubles for a 6-4 Bradley lead.
With their backs against the wall, the first six Polk County batters in the bottom of the seventh reached base and three scored to pull out the victory.
Briana Muller opened the rally with a double to left-center field. After Williams drew a walk, Hannah Triplett unloaded on a double to the right-center gap to bring in Muller. After a free pass to Withrow loaded the bases, Bates hit a grounder, but the fielder’s choice throw to home was unsuccessful as the umpired ruled the Bearette catcher didn’t have her foot on the plate for the force out, allowing Williams to even the score at 6-all.
Johnson then stepped to the dish delivered her second run-scoring hit with a single to right to plate Triplett with the game-winning run.
“Let me tell you Ashton (Johnson) and Emily (Bates) gave us this win tonight,” proclaimed Coach Triplett. “While it was a good team win, Emily has been sick and throwing up for two days, and did so right before the game, but came out and still wanted to play. Ashton was playing first base for the first time in a game tonight and did a great job. She came through with some big hits. Those two girls inspired the rest of the team tonight.”
Bates reached base all four times with a pair of hits and two fielder’s choices, while Johnson went 2-for-3, plus drew a walk and drove in three teammates.
“This was a good Senior Night win,” the Polk coach declared. “Felicia Johnson is our only senior, and we’ve advanced to the region each of her three years and hope to do it again this year.”
Withrow and Hannah Triplett both reached base three times in the victory, while Muller and Williams got on safely with a free pass and a hit each. Both also stole a bases, with Williams scoring twice and Muller once.
Although she gave up 13 hits and a half dozen earned runs, Triplett went the distance to improve her pitching record to 12-1 on the season.
For Bradley, Abernathy went 3-for-4 with a pair of “ribbies” and two runs scored, while Ogle was 2-for-2, including a double, with a walk, a pair of RBIs and a run scored.
Grady went 2-for-4 at the dish with a double and she drove in a run, plus pitched her first varsity complete game, allowing eight hits, striking out three but issuing a half dozen free passes and allowing five earned runs.
“Chanler (Grady) doesn’t have a lot of varsity pitching experience, but she pitched well, and our defense played well behind her,” remarked Bearette head coach Christie McElhaney. “We are improving and playing hard. Kallie (Hawkins) and Abbey (Abernathy) had good days at the plate, but we had a couple of calls go against us that I felt he (the umpire) missed.”
On Thursday, Polk County traveled to Hixson and came out on the short end of a game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh as the host Lady Wildcats pulled out an 11-10 win.
After falling behind 5-0 after two innings and trailing 8-4 after five, Polk put a 6-spot on the scoreboard in the sixth inning to take the lead, but Hixson fought back to even the score in the bottom of the frame and then came up with the game-winner in the seventh.
Aubrie Bowman, who missed Friday’s game due to a knee injury, went 2-for-5 with a double for the girls from Benton, while Muller belted a home run.
Bradley Central 010 020 3 — 6 13 1
Polk County 202 000 3 — 7 8 1
WP: Hannah Triplett (12-1) 7 IP, 2 Ks, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 13 hits, 6 ER; LP: Chanler Grady 6 IP, 3 Ks, 5 BB, 1 HBP, 8 hits, 5 ER. HR: Kallie Hawkins (BC). 2B: Britlee Ogle, Chanler Grady (BC); Briana Muller, Hannah Triplett (PC).; RBIs: Abbey Abernathy 2, Ogle 2, Hawkins, Grady (BC); Ashton Johnson 3, Triplett, Emily Bates 2 (PC). Highlights: Abernathy 3-4, 2 RBI, 2 runs; Ogle 2-2, BB, 2B, 2 RBIs, run; Grady 2-4, 2B, RBI; Hawkins 2-3, HR, HBP, RBI, run; Sydney Morgan 2-4, BB, SB (BC); Ashton Johnson 2-3, BB, 3 RBIs, GWRBI; Bates 2-4, 2 RBIs; Hannah Withrow 1-2, HBP, BB, run; Triplett 1-3, 2B, BB, reached on error, RBI, 3 runs; Brianna Muller 1-3, 2B, BB, SB, run; Kate Williams 1-3, BB, SB, 2 runs (PC). Records: Polk County 19-4; Bradley Central 8-14.
Polk County 002 026 0 — 10 6 3
Hixson 050 032 1 — 11 11 0
WP: Marissa Murray 4 IP, 7 Ks. HR: Brianna Muller (PC). 3B: Abigail Tipton (H) 2B: Aubrie Bowman (PC); Murray, Tiera Taylor, Michaela Penney (H). Highlights: Bowman 2-5 (PC); Tipton 2-3, 2 SBs, 2 RBIs,; Murray 2-4, 2 RBIs, 2 runs; Taylor 2-4, 2 RBIs; Penney 2-4, 2 RBIs (H). Records: Polk County 18-4; Hixson 11-17.