Chapel Hill entered day two of the 5A Elite 8 State Tournament in Columbus on Friday with a chance to fight out of the one-loss bracket and back into the championship game. However, Harris County had other plans, handing the Lady Panthers their second loss of the tourney, and knocking them out of the playoffs.
Down for most of the game, Chapel Hill made the game dramatic in the final inning before falling to Harris, 7-6, and ending the 2014 local softball season.
It looked like Chapel Hill would put two runs on the board in the first inning for an early lead. After Shelby Robinson reached first on an error, Savana Sikes sent a pitch deep to left. The Harris left fielder made the catch while running through the fence. Robinson was allowed to move to second on the play but she was doubled off the bag on a line drive to short by Ashley Morgan.
Darby Demarest started in the circle for CHHS. She hit the first batter and walked the second. On the final pitch to the No. 2 hitter, Abby White, Demarest fell down due to a field maintenance problem. A 30 minute delay ensued and the problem was eventually fixed. However, the issues would cost the Lady Panthers a run. With one out, and the bases loaded, Sarah Kate Jenkins hit a shallow fly to left and White did a good job of avoiding the tag at home on the sac fly.
Chapel Hill took the lead in the top of the second inning when Hallie Rutledge singled to left and Malynn Haven hit a home run down the left field line off Lady Tiger starter, Lilly Hooper. Demarest struck out the side in the bottom of the inning.
Hooper threw a 1-2-3 top of the third. Demarest got into trouble in the bottom of the inning and could not escape it. She hit the first batter and allowed back-to-back singles, the last to Hooper, which drove in a run. A squeeze play off a bunt by Jenkins, scored the second run. With one out, Demarest hit the next batter and then walked another, ending her night. Morgan trotted in from center field and forced two ground ball outs, the first scoring a runner from third. When the dust settled, Chapel Hill trailed 5-2.
The Lady Panthers cut the deficit by a run in the top of the fourth when Rutledge singled to right, Haven was hit by a pitch, and with two outs, Demarest singled to left, bringing Rutledge home. Haven was thrown out at third to end the inning. After allowing a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning, Morgan forced a pop-out to second, a fly-out to right, and she struck out the next batter.
Chapel Hill continued to chip away at the Lady Tiger lead in the top of the fifth. Kayla Alexander walked with one out and moved to second on a groundout to the pitcher by Robinson. Sikes singled to right, bringing in the run. However, Harris answered in the bottom of the inning with a solo home run by Jenkins.
The Harris left fielder, Abby Thomason, continued to put on a clinic, making two diving grabs in the top of the sixth inning. She also caught an easy fly to record all three outs. Harris added another insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Hooper doubled to left and scored on a bunt single by White.
In the top of the seventh, Demarest led off with a single to left but was forced out at second when Anna Aulgur hit into a fielder’s choice. With out one, Alexander beat out an infield single and Robinson hit a flair to left to load the bases. Sikes hit a fly ball to right, bringing in Aulgur. With two outs, and runners on second and third, Morgan doubled to center, scoring Alexander. With the tying run on third, Rutledge popped out to second base to end the game.
Chapel Hill split a pair of games on opening day, defeating Columbus High School in the first game, 6-1, before falling to Greenbrier in the second round, 10-6.
Against Columbus, the top of the Lady Panther order, led by Robinson, Sikes and Morgan, did a good job of getting on base and scoring runs. Chapel Hill took a two run lead in the first inning on an RBI hit by Morgan and a Lady Blue Devil error in the first inning. In the second, Sikes knocked in Robinson for a run. Morgan and Sikes continued to do damage in the fourth. Both picked up RBI hits. The Lady Panthers scored their final run of the game in the seventh when Robinson singled in a run.
Demarest threw well in the game by dominating the inside corner. Working inside comes with a price as she hit three batters, but she allowed only one run in the complete game performance.
Greenbrier, arguably one of the best all-around teams in the tourney according to Harper, jumped out on Chapel Hill in game two, taking a 4-0 lead off two home runs in the first inning. Morgan started in the circle for the Lady Panthers and struggled with her control early on.
Maddie Hunt, who would do damage at the plate all night long, hit a solo home run in the first and Brianna Butler, who also started in the circle for Greenbrier, added a three run shot.
Chapel Hill answered with two runs in the bottom of the first. Sikes scored Robinson on an RBI triple. Sikes scored on the play after a throwing error.
After the Lady Panthers cut the deficit to one run, the Lady Wolfpack broke the game open with four runs off three outfield errors.
Greenbrier took a six run lead by the bottom of the seventh inning, but Chapel Hill did not go quietly, scoring two runs on RBI hits from Rutledge and Malynn Haven before the final out was recorded.