Shortly after lightning delayed Daniel Boone’s Sectional softball game some 85 minutes on Friday, the thunder in Hannah Montoya’s bat helped the Lady Blazers storm back to Murfreesboro for the second time in three years.
Montoya, a sophomore second baseman who bats ninth in the order, gave Boone a 7-4 lead with a two-out, three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth, and the Lady Blazers pulled away for a 12-6 Class AAA win at home that eliminated Karns.
Daniel Boone (45-4) will open play either Tuesday or Wednesday in the state tournament.
The sectional was delayed with Karns trailing 4-2 with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the fifth. On the second pitch after play resumed, Murray State signee Audrey Woodby tied the score at 4 with a two-run single to left.
Karns pitcher Carey Balboa responded by retiring the first two Boone batters in the fifth, but Kayla Smith and McKenzi Ferguson followed with singles to set the unlikely stage for Montoya, who stepped up to the plate with one home run on the season.
“I just wanted to get a base-hit,” said Montoya, whose blast was a no-doubter beyond the center field fence. “Our seniors have worked hard for four years, and I wanted to do it for them. There’s not words to describe how excited I was. At first I thought it was just a base-hit, but when I looked up I knew it was gone.”
A smiling Montoya looked like she wanted to jump out of her skin when she was rounding third, and it seemed like you could see goosebumps on the skin of head coach Rick Wagner when he congratulated her from the third-base coach’s box.
“She hit a bomb,” Wagner said. “We don’t have a weak spot in the lineup. … I tell you what, it gives you a good feeling to know that anyone of them can hit. …
“I’m excited for them. This is a big accomplishment. Like I told them, you know what really makes this sweet, and every coach knows this – they were picked to go to the state from the get-go by everyone in this area, and for them to do what they have done, I just think it’s beyond belief.”
Jessie Wheelock walked, stole second and scored on Andrea Rogers’ two-out single to give Boone a 1-0 lead in the first.
Karns (30-14) went ahead 2-1 in the third thanks to hits from Kelli Hensley, Miranda Smith and Elayna Siebert, but Wheelock began the bottom of the third with a double and the Blazers scored three in the frame to take a 4-2 lead.
Natalie Sheffey had an RBI single and Kayla Sanders lined an RBI double of the fence in left field during Boone’s three-run third.
Wagner said Boone’s answered all year after productive innings from opponents. Wheelock began the Lady Blazers’ five-run sixth with a double, too. Winning pitcher Kellie Waycaster had a two-run double in that frame.
Karns scored two in the seventh to conclude the scoring, which provided a sliver of solace for coach Judy Siebert.
“That’s the personality of this team,” she said. “They’re not gonna give up. … We won 30 games this year, you know, so that’s not anything to sniff at; that’s hard. …
“That (Boone) is just a good team and you’ve gotta give credit to a good team. Their whole lineup put the ball in play, made us play defense, put pressure on us the entire game. So they deserve to go to state.”
Leadoff batter Jennine Duncan was 3-for-5 and parlayed a difficult catch on Amanda Adkins’ liner on the right-field line into a 9-3 double play to begin the top of the sixth.
“When I saw the angle of the ball and stuff, I thought, ‘There’s no way she can get that,’” Wagner said. “That was a heck of a play.”
Waycaster (33-2) pitched a complete game for the victory. Three of Karns’ runs were unearned.
“Kellie battles,” Wagner said. “A lot of people could’ve gotten down after that two-run hit. Kellie’s just a machine out there.”
Rogers and Sheffey were each 1-for-3 with a walk, a run and an RBI. Sanders scored twice and drove in two runs. Ferguson was 2-for-3 with two runs, an RBI and a sacrifice, and Smith was 2-for-4 with a line-out.
Going to the state tournament twice in three years appeared to be more gratifying than going for the first time in school history two years ago.
“I told them when I walked off that field down there in 2010,” Wagner said, “I just turned around and looked at it all, because I thought, you know, that’s probably our one shot in a lifetime to get there. And to be going back again is unbelievable.”
Hensley, a Carson-Newman signee, was 3-for-4 with a double for Karns. Siebert was 2-for-3 with an RBI and drew an intentional pass after working the count to 2-0 with two on and two outs in the fifth.