MURFREESBORO — Tears of sadness were at least mingled with tears of joy for University High, thanks to Kutu Hall.
The reserve senior hit her first-ever home run, a three-run blast over the left-center field fence in the bottom of the seventh inning. It wasn’t enough to spark the Lady Buccaneers to victory as they fell 12-6 to Huntingdon in the losers’ bracket of the Class A state softball tournament at Starplex on Wednesday afternoon.
It was a season-ending loss for UH, which finished at an impressive 34-10 but allowed 24 runs in two games in Murfreesboro.
“We didn’t play good defense the last two days,” said UH head coach Keith Jeffers. “If you don’t play good defense down here, it doesn’t matter what you do unless you hit the lights out. I would have never dreamed we would score six runs and get doubled up.”
Just like the loss to Forrest on Tuesday, UH got off to a good start. The Lady Bucs jumped ahead in the bottom of the second inning with Tanner Horton’s infield hit, Sarah Higginbotham’s sacrifice, Madi Freeman’s bunt single, and Miranda Honeycutt’s RBI ground out.
Then the wheels came off in the third inning. Lydia Hayes doubled in two runs, and Paige Jennette added an RBI double. Then Hannah Belew added an RBI double. Suddenly the Lady Bucs trailed, 4-1.
UH clawed back on the strength of Belle Bright’s home run over the center field fence in the bottom of the third inning.
But the Fillies were at it again in the fourth, scoring three times to open a commanding 7-2 lead.
UH cut it to 7-3 on Barrett Wherry’s fourth-inning sacrifice fly, but Huntingdon poured on five runs in the sixth inning to end any suspense until Hall connected on a fastball.
“The ball was coming, and I thought I better not strikeout because it was our last chance,” said Hall, whose blast came with one out. “Might as well go all out, and hit it the right way.
“It gave me hope we could still come back. We didn’t, but it was still a great season. We just weren’t ready to play today, I guess.”
Jeffers said Hall’s homer didn’t change the overall disappointment, but added, “It was great, and I’m really happy for her.”
Bright had a big day at the plate for UH, going 3 for 4 with an RBI. Horton finished with two hits for the Lady Bucs.
Leading the way for the Fillies was leadoff weapon Savannah Dodson. She went 3 for 4 with two runs, two RBIs, and two stolen bases.
Hayes, Jennett and Belew, who was the winning pitcher, each had two hits.
Overall, Jeffers said reaching the state was a good deal.
“Only 24 teams make it in Division I, and only eight in Class A,” said Jeffers. “And we were one of them. Some girls in high school never get to come here.
“But that’s why it’s disappointing when you don’t play your best game. You don’t have these opportunities very often, so you want to take advantage of it. And we failed to do that.”