The Cornersville Lady Bulldogs (24-16) entered uncharted territory on Wednesday night when they thrashed the Marion County Lady Warriors 8-0 at the Starplex in Murfreesboro to advance to the third round of the Class A State Tournament winner's bracket for the first time ever.
Marion County had crushed Unaka 12-0 in the opening round of the tournament, but the Lady Bulldogs proved to be a much more formidable foe and jumped out to a 3-0 lead through the first three innings of play before using a late offensive barrage to pull away for the eight-run victory.
Although Cornersville has reached the State Tournament four other times prior to this year and finished third in 2008 and 2009, CHS coach Spencer Mitchell considered the Lady Bulldogs triumph over Marion County the biggest in the program's history.
"I would say this would have to be because this is the first time we haven't had to play on Thursday morning in the loser's bracket and win by the skin of our teeth," said Mitchell. "Now we get to play on Thursday night and hopefully we'll win by the skin of our teeth."
Cornersville starting pitcher Haley Fagan baffled the Lady Warriors' lineup and picked up her second win of the tournament to run her record to 14-3, yielding just two hits and two walks in seven innings of work while racking up 12 strikeouts.
"I like to be under pressure and pitch in big games. It helps when you have a good team behind you that has your back. Scoring early the last two games has really helped me relax," said Fagan.
Breanna Sitz was the lone Marion County batter to have success against Fagan and went 2-for-3 with a double.
After shutting out her previous two opponents, Lady Warrior staff ace Heather Richards ran into a buzz saw on Wednesday night, as the Lady Bulldogs pounded out 13 hits overall against the senior right hander.
Shortstop Makenzie Hopkins spearheaded CHS' offensive onslaught by going 4-for-4 with a double, 1 RBI, and a run scored. Makayla Campbell (2 RBI) and Brittney Crowell collected two hits apiece for Cornersville as well with Campbell belting an inside the park homerun, while Fagan (3 RBI), catcher Lindsey Dalton (1 RBI), Kaitlyn Rogers, MandiLynn Calahan ( 1 RBI), and Ashley Beard each had one hit.
Similar to their opening round game against Trinity Christian Academy, the Lady Bulldogs got off to a quick start and pushed across a run in the top of the first inning to grab a 1-0 lead. After leading off the inning with a single and advancing to second on a wild pitch, Campbell moved to third on a Hopkins single prior to racing home on a sacrifice fly by Fagan.
Marion County stranded a runner at second in the bottom of the second before Cornersville plated two more runs in the third to open up a 3-0 advantage. Following a bloop single by Crowell, Campbell was able to completely round the bases after ripping a line drive down the left field line that rolled past the temporary outfield fence. The play was allowed to stand by the umpires because Lady Warrior left fielder Matsie Richardson chased after the ball instead of trying to call for assistance.
Marion County left another runner at second in the fourth, but had a chance to get back into the game in the fifth when they put runners on second and third with two outs thanks to a Sitz double and a CHS error, but Dalton picked off Sitz at third to stamp out the threat.
The Lady Bulldogs then salted the game away in the top of the seventh by crossing home plate five times in the inning to forge an 8-0 lead. Crowell led off the frame with an infield single, before advancing to third on a Lady Warrior throwing error while Taylor Wolaver reached first on the play. After Hopkins drove in Crowell with a RBI single, she and Wolaver both came home on a two-run double by Fagan to make it 6-0. Dalton then plated Fagan with a RBI single and advanced to second on the throw home before scoring on a Calahan RBI single.
In the bottom seventh, Fagan worked around a two-out single by Sitz by striking out the side to notch her fourth shutout of the season.