After the Lady ’Blazers rally to beat rival David Crockett 3-2 to earn a share of the Big Seven Conference title and wrap up the No. 1 seed for the upcoming District 1-AAA tournament, Jenkins told his players that he had never been more proud of a team.
Pretty high praise, considering all the teams Jenkins has coached in football, basketball and softball. However, there’s a reason he felt that way.
“To come back against one of the top pitchers in the area after being down 2-0, this was a tournament atmosphere,” Jenkins said. “I’m proud to death of our girls. It hasn’t been easy. Of course, you don’t want it to be easy. But this bunch has been behind the 8-ball much of the year.
“We still aren’t swinging the bats the way we want, but what we preach here is pitching and defense. We pitched well today, made one error, but other than that, we turned a big double play in the fifth and I’m proud of the way our kids responded.”
Boone improved to 30-14 overall and 10-2 in the Big Seven Conference. Crockett fell to 29-9 and 10-2. Lady Pioneers coach Carla Weems wasn’t happy with a couple of calls, particularly when the umpires convened on a 3-2 count, when she felt it should have been a walk.
Kara Weems suffered the loss despite giving up just three hits.
“Kara’s beating herself up, but she pitched a great game,” Weems said. “She walked a few, but there were a few calls in there that were close and we weren’t getting the corners again today. That’s frustrating for a pitcher. Then we had the errors in the sixth inning, a routine ground ball to short and a throw where we couldn’t catch it. You can’t do that against good teams.”
Megan Ackerman gave up six hits but no walks in a complete game. The only runs by Crockett came in the fifth inning when Matty McKee had a single to left field to score Alyssa Suits and Madison Pleasant.
“That team is as hot as anyone hitting the ball,” Jenkins said. “To hold them to two runs after they got 19 hits yesterday, Megan battled all day. She dug in there and I know she was going on a lot of adrenaline.”
Engaged in a pitchers’ duel for most of the game, Ackerman admitted there were a few tense moments when Crockett took the lead.
“I was ready to come out and play, but once they got ahead, I was a little nervous,” Ackerman said. “But our team came and battled back, so I knew I just had to hold on.”
All three of Boone’s runs came in the sixth.
Ackerman reached on a ground ball and later scored off Kayla Hubbard’s RBI single to center field. Ashley Starnes then scored on a game-tying sacrifice fly by Greyson Stevens, putting courtesy runner Dannah Persinger at third base. Savannah Russell had another sacrifice fly to score Persinger for the winning run.
Hubbard had two of Boone’s three hits, while Russell was in the lineup as a designed player after missing over a month with an ankle injury.
“We wanted to get her more swings in and get her timing in,” Jenkins said. “Today, she had a real good day of batting practice and it was the first day she had been the DP. She got the big sac fly for us and we need her bat in there. Hopefully, we can build on this going into the tournament.”
It’s a quick turnaround for Crockett, which faces Volunteer in the first round of the district tournament Friday at 5 p.m. And it was a shared league title for the rivals, with Crockett winning the first meeting, 7-5, back on April 11.
“We’re still co-champions,” Carla Weems said. “They got beat by Cherokee, a five seed, and we got beat by Science Hill, a three seed, so it is what it is. But when you play softball, it’s got to be one of those things where yesterday is over and you can’t worry about what happened.”