Despite being forced to take a more treacherous route, the Cornersville Lady Bulldogs are once again traveling to Murfreesboro in late May after they rallied to defeat Region 5-A champ East Robertson 4-3 on the road in the sectional round of the playoffs to qualify for the Class A State Tournament.
Coming off a disappointing 6-4 loss to Richland in the Region 6-A title game two days earlier, CHS had their backs shoved against the wall early on by the Lady Indians and trailed 3-0 through the first three innings of play.
The Lady Bulldogs, however, came back swinging and pushed across four runs over the next three frames while senior starting pitcher Haley Fagan held East Robertson scoreless the rest of the way to help Cornersville reach the state tournament for the third time in the last four years.
"All the girls knew it could be our last game, but I think we just had the will and the fight to get it done because everyone dreams of playing in the state tournament," said Fagan. "I really think the loss to Richland helped us because we had been on a roll and it kind of stunned us and made us refocus."
Although Cornersville left 10 runners on base, the Lady Bulldogs made solid contact the entire night against Lady Indian pitcher Shawna McAdams and pounded out 12 hits overall to go along with three walks.
Fagan and senior catcher Lindsey Dalton both came up big for CHS, as Fagan went 4-for-4 with a double, 1 RBI, and two runs scored, while Dalton added a double, a triple, and 3 RBI.
"Like I told you earlier in the playoffs, they came through because they're Lindsey and Haley," said Cornersville coach Spencer Mitchell. "Their leadership can't be beat and they know how to get it done. They've both played a lot of softball and this isn't their first rodeo."
Taylor Wolaver collected two hits for the Lady Bulldogs as well, while Makenzie Hopkins, Kaitlyn Rogers, MandiLynn Calahan, and Brittney Crowell each had one hit.
Facing a Lady Indian offense that was averaging 8.6 runs per game this season, Fagan turned in a gritty performance in the circle and limited East Robertson's potent lineup to just four hits and two walks in seven innings of work to earn her 12th victory of the year.
Erica Casey had a homerun and 2 RBI to pace the Lady Indians offensively, while shortstop Kaleigh Pearce Bella Zizzi, and McAdams all singled.
East Robertson grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a two-out RBI single by McAdams, before Casey cranked a two-run homer over the centerfield fence in the third to make it 3-0.
The Lady Bulldogs, though, clawed their way back into the contest in the top of the fourth by plating two runs in the frame to slice the deficit to 3-2. Following consecutive singles by Hopkins and Fagan, Dalton blasted a double off the base of the centerfield fence to drive in both runners.
Cornersville then tied the game at 3-3 in the fifth when Fagan raced home on a RBI triple by Dalton after doubling with two outs.
CHS continued to keep the pressure on the Lady Indians in the sixth and tallied another run to seize a 4-3 lead. After Brittney Crowell led off the sixth with an infield single, Makayla Campbell hit into a fielder's choice prior to advancing to second on a Wolaver bunt single. Both runners then moved up 60 feet on a throwing error by Pearce, before Campbell scored the go ahead run a few moments later when Fagan legged out an infield single.
In the bottom of the sixth, East Robertson had a chance to tie the game after putting a runner on second with two outs, but Fagan retired Kelsey Jernigan on a groundout to extinguish the threat.
Fagan then worked around a two-out walk in the seventh by striking out the side to punch the Lady Bulldogs' ticket to the state tournament.