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UH softball headed to state for third straight year

Trey Williams • May 16, 2014 at 10:56 PM

University High tripled its pleasure while clinching a third straight tournament berth Friday at Basler Field.

Barrett Wherry led off the game for the Lady Bucs with a triple during a two-run first inning, Ari Ramsaran began the sixth with a triple and scored the go-ahead run on Sarah Higginbotham's one-out single and the Lady Bucs held on for a 3-2 victory against Meigs County in a Class A Sectional.

University High (34-8) will begin play in Murfreesboro on Tuesday. Meigs County ended the season with an 18-13 record.

Junior pitcher Tanner Horton overcame wet conditions, including a 12-minute rain delay, and a somewhat fluid strike zone to improve to 25-3 with the complete-game victory. She allowed four hits, five walks and struck out eight.

After walking Madison Hampton to begin the seventh, Horton retired Meigs County's Nos. 2, 3 and 4 batters in order to end it.

"I was crying after the game," Horton said. "I was just so, like, overwhelmed with happiness. I have been waiting for this game for a really long time. And to bring this team back to state is just unbelievable. I can't describe it."

The score was tied at 2 entering the bottom of the sixth. Ramsaran, a freshman shortstop, led off the frame by lining a 2-2 pitch down the right-field line for a triple. One out later, Higginbotham went the other way to line a 1-2 pitch over third baseman Madison Crabtree for what proved to be the game-winning single.

"When Sarah hit it we could hear everyone hold their breath," Horton said. "It was so intense."

Ramsaran's poise belies her youth. She also calmly fielded Hampton's one-out grounder in the fourth and threw home to catcher Belle Bright to force out a sliding Angel Davis on a play close enough to leave fans waiting to exhale.

"I just got it ... knew to go home and I mean, came through," Ramsaran said. "Belle came through right there, too."

Horton then got Taylor Boggess to fly out to right field to strand three runners and leave the score tied through 3 1/2 innings.

Madison Stiner led off the second with a solo home run for Meigs County, and tied the score at 2 on Brandi Kilpatrick's single after leading off the fourth with a walk and advancing to third on Angel Davis' single and a throwing error.

UH coach Keith Jeffers said he told his players before the game that three or four runs and solid defense should be a recipe for victory, and the Lady Bucs' defense was solid save for the throwing error.

"We started off quick," Jeffers said. "We blistered the right-field line (with right-handed batters). But after the second inning you could tell it was gonna be a good battle."

Lady Tigers' pitcher Morgan Boggess allowed three runs in six innings. She struck out five, walked none and gave up 10 hits.

"She pitched out of several jams," Meigs County coach Jeff Davis said. "They hit it better than us, obviously. ... It's hard to win with four hits. We put it in play. They got the big hit and we didn't."

Boggess got a swinging strike on Ramsaran to make the count 1-2 during the critical sixth-inning at-bat, but Ramsran took the ensuing pitch to even the count before lining the ball into the right-field corner for the lead-off triple.

"Getting that triple with no outs was huge,"said Jeffers, who was equally impressed with Higginbotham's one-out hit. "Sarah's been struggling, and she would tell you that. And it was just great to see her hit that ball. ... She went with the pitch and took it where it was thrown. ...

"With these faster pitchers ... you've just gotta make contact. And that girl was a good pitcher from Meigs County. ... Ten hits against her, that was pretty good."

Taylor Treadway was 2-for-2 with a run and a sacrifice bunt for UH. Ramsaran and sophomore Madi Freeman were each 2-for-3, and Wherry finished 2-for-4.

Veterans, freshmen and sophomores all contributed to yet another state berth. Jeffers noted freshman Miranda Honeycutt delivering the late go-ahead RBI against North Greene in the Region 1-AAA championship.

"Oh, man, it's great," Ramsaran said. "This is my first substate game. ... Sarah came through really big right there. That was really clutch. ... Madi came up big, too.

"Tanner's been battling the whole year. I mean, she does really good coming back in counts. She came through. I have confidence in everybody on the field. I knew we could pull it out."

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