MURFREESBORO – The Lexington softball team is known for being more of an offensive powerhouse than what it showed in the first two days of the tournament.
A microcosm of that has been the hitting of freshman Kaitlyn Kelley, who leads the Lady Tigers in home runs. On the first two days of the tournament, Kelley went 0-for-6.
But that all changed on Thursday. Kelley went 6-for-8 with five runs, three RBI, a home run and a double to help lead Lexington to a 15-5 win over Creek Wood followed by a 9-3 win over Christian Academy of Knoxville in the Class AA state tournament.
“The offense is key,” Lexington coach Ronnie Burke said. “When we get it rolling, we have to keep it rolling. There is no slowing down.”
The Lady Tigers (43-7) are now in the final three, and they will play Chattanooga Central at 9 a.m. on Friday for a spot in the state championship game.
Kelley’s home run came in the first game against Creek Wood, but sophomore Abbie Nowell had her first home run of the season in the second inning of Game 2 to give her team the 2-0 lead.
“That home run was unexpected, but she has had some big hits this season,” Burke said. “They were shifted, so we wanted to hit it up the middle.”
CAK fought back to take a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning on a two-run home run by Emma Webb.
But the runs seemed to add fuel to the offensive fire. The Lady Tigers came back in the top of the sixth inning to take the lead.
Two-out RBI singles by Katelyn Wilson and Hannah Bassham gave Lexington the 4-3 lead.
And to be safe the Lady Tigers added five more runs in the seventh inning. Sam McDaniel, Kelley and Nowell had RBI hits, Alaina Moore scored on a passed ball and Bassham had an RBI groundout.
“After yesterday, I thought about coming up to the plate and looking for outside pitches to hit,” Kelley said. “If they weren’t there, I was going to take them. We had to be ready for whatever the pitchers today were throwing.”
The Lexington defense also held a tough CAK offense to three runs with two coming on one hit. Freshman Brylie Brown, who improved to 16-0 on the season, allowing two earned runs on eight hits, while striking out two and walking none.
“We had good scouting report on CAK, and Brylie hit her spots,” Burke said. “I made a few mistakes on pitches like the one for the home run, but she hit her spot on that pitch.”
Creek Wood 5
Lexington had its best offensive output of the tournament with 15 runs.
“This was a team win,” Burke said. “We had the hitting, the defense and the pitching.”
With the game tied 1-1 in the third inning, Lexington senior Brooklyn Hays hit an RBI single to centerfield to give the Lady Tigers the 2-1 lead.
Kelley continued the rally with a two-run home run to right field and Iesha Kizer followed with a solo homer for the 5-1 lead.
“You could tell when we took the 5-1 lead, they had their heads dropped,” Burke said. “It got a little chippy after that, but we continued to get huge hits.”
The Lady Tigers put up five more runs in the fifth inning to almost put the game away — 11-1 lead — with Wilson’s RBI single, Meghan Maness’ two-RBI single and two runs scored on an error.
Creek Wood got a run back in the bottom of the fifth inning to force a sixth inning.
The Lady Tigers kept the bats hot in the sixth inning with four more runs on a bases-loaded walk to Wilson, an RBI fielder’s choice by Maness and two-RBI double by Hays.
“When we get the offense started, we have to keep it going,” Kelley said. “The whole line-up can produce, we just have to get it started.”
Hays was 3-for-5 with five RBI, while Kelley was 3-for-4 with two RBI. Maness also had three RBI.
Michael Odom, 425-9754