“I thought (going into the season) we were about a year away from being a really good team. These girls have done a great job and taken us farther than a lot of people thought we’d go,” the diamond veteran said after his team came up a win shy of making the TSSAA State Softball Tournament.
After going undefeated in District 5-AA play and claiming its first league title in 20 years, Polk County returned to the Region 3-AA Tournament for the third straight year and this time earned a spot in a TSSAA Sectional Game.
With the substate game delayed twice due to a graduation and rain, a shot at a Spring Fling bid came Sunday afternoon in Dunlap when the Lady Wildcats faced off against District 7-AA and Region 4-AA champion Sequatchie County.
The host Lady Indians were looking for their first trip to the state tournament since 1990, when it won the Class AA state title under the direction of current head coach Kelly Somerville’s father Pete Swafford. They got it behind a no-hit pitching performance by freshman Emily Yell for a 5-0 victory.
“The bigger the game, the bigger the eyes get,” remarked Coach Triplett of his 12-member squad that has only one senior. “We got physically whipped today in every aspect of the game. They (Sequatchie) took better hacks than we did. Today they were the better team.
“They’ve (Sequatchie) been here before and we haven’t,” he said of the Lady Indians having made the sectional round three of the last five years. “I told the girls (after the game) to remember this feelings, so that the next time we get this kind of opportunity, we’ll be better prepared.”
Polk County finishes the season with a 25-8 record, while Sequatchie (23-12) advances to the state tournament beginning Tuesday, where it will open against a 42-5 Lexington squad.
“This game doesn’t define us,” declared Coach Triplett, who is 69-38 since switching over from the baseball diamond to coach the fast-pitch softball squad in 2011. “We’re a pretty good team. I can’t guarantee we’ll be any better next year, but we’ve got something to build on.”
The Lady Wildcats managed to get four base runners Sunday with Briana Muller, who homered twice in Polk County's Region 3 championship-game loss to Chattanooga Central, drawing walks in the first, fourth and seventh innings, while teammate Hannah Withrow reached on an error in the second frame.
Sequatchie County, which defeated state tournament participant DeKalb County (40-6) 3-1 in the Region 4-AA title game, got a solo home run from Allison Davenport to open the bottom of the second.
The hosts took advantage of a trio of walks, a fielding error and a triple by Ashley Moffitt for a three-run rally in the third.
The final run of the game scored in the fifth frame when Katelynne Cheatham led off with a double and scored on a groundout by Amber Kilgore.
TSSAA SECTIONAL GAME SUMMARY
Polk County 000 000 0 — 0 0 2
Sequatchie County 013 010 x — 5 6 1
WP: Emily Yell 7 IP, 8 K’s, 3 BB, 0 hits, 0 ER; LP: Hannah Triplett (16-4) 7 IP, 0 K’s, 3 BB, 6 hits, 4 ER. HR: Allison Davenport (SC). 3B: Ashley Moffitt (SC). 2B: Katelynne Cheatham (SC); RBIs: Davenport, Moffitt, Madi Presto, Amber Kilgore (SC). Highlights: Briana Muller 3 BB, SB (PC); Davenport 2-3, HR, RBI, run; Moffitt 2-3, 3B, RBI, run; Cheatham 1-2, 2B, BB, run (SC). Records: Polk County 25-8; Sequatchie County 23-12.