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Elizabethton stays alive in state softball tourney thanks to McKinney's home run

Douglas Fritz • Updated May 25, 2017 at 12:37 AM

MURFREESBORO — After 10 scoreless innings at the state tournament, the heavy-hitting Elizabethton softball team wasn’t looking much like its season-long self.

And Abbi McKinney considered herself among the ones not living up to the billing.

So McKinney went out and did something about it.

The Lady Cyclones’ third baseman destroyed a pitch for a tiebreaking three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning, the biggest blow in a 5-2 victory over Sweetwater in the losers’ bracket of the Class AA state tournament at Starplex Field on Wednesday.

Improving to 37-7, Elizabethton earned a game Thursday at 11 a.m. (EDT) against Christian Academy of Knoxville, which was defeated 7-2 late Wednesday night by Creek Wood.

After Maci West delivered the first offensive blow of the tournament for the Lady Cyclones with a line-drive RBI double in the bottom of the fourth inning to tie the game at 1-1, McKinney stepped to the plate in the fifth after a pair of walks.

“I was actually really mad at myself, I’m not going to lie, because I had been doing horrible hitting,” said McKinney. “I just swung, and I knew it was out as soon as it hit the bat. It was great.

“I was really glad I was going to help my team pull through and get this win because everybody wanted it tonight. Everybody really got up, and they all help. They all cheer you on. They don’t let you get down.”

Elizabethton head coach Ken Hardin said McKinney had a great at-bat.

“She was down 0-2, and came back and worked the count in her favor,” said Hardin. “She got a good pitch to hit and drove the ball out of the park.”

McKinney’s swing was more than enough to compensate for a two-homer game by Sweetwater’s Addie Lowe. Those blasts were the only two problems for Elizabethton’s Kellie Cunningham, who went the distance while allowing four hits, four walks and striking out two batters.

“She pitched a great game,” said Hardin. “Kellie has been like that all along. If they get a hit off of her, she stays the same. That’s the mentality you have to have as a pitcher.”

Elizabethton managed just four hits.

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