Coming off a heartbreaking 5-4 defeat to Decatur County the previous evening, the Cornersville Lady Bulldogs (24-18) saw their stellar playoff run come to an end on Friday morning when they lost 3-2 in eight innings to the Grace Baptist Academy Lady Golden Eagles in the Class A State Tournament loser's bracket final.
Having defeated Grace Baptist twice in the 2009 State Tournament, the Lady Bulldogs trailed 1-0 through the first five innings of play, but notched a run in the top of the sixth to tie the score at 1-1 before pushing across another run in the eighth to seize a 2-1 lead.
Cornersville, though, was unable to hold onto a late lead for a second consecutive game, as the Lady Golden Eagles (42-8) crossed home plate two times in the bottom half of the eighth to knock CHS out of the playoffs.
Despite ending the tournament with two straight losses, the Lady Bulldogs finished 3rd in the State for the third time in the last four years.
"Before the Coffee County tournament, we were lucky to field a team, but we seemed to come together after that point. The outcome wasn't what we wanted today, but not many people thought we'd be here with all the injuries we've had," said Cornersville coach Spencer Mitchell. "We've had a pretty good run the last four years and it's something to strive for in the future."
Although CHS drew six walks against Grace Baptist staff ace Layce Walker to go along with two GBA errors, the Lady Bulldogs tallied a modest six hits and left 12 runners on base, including nine in scoring position.
Senior pitcher Haley Fagan went 2-for-4 to lead Cornersville at the plate, while Makayla Campbell (1 RBI), Kaitlyn Rogers, MandiLynn Calahan (1 RBI), and Brittney Crowell each had one hit.
Fagan, meanwhile, suffered only her fifth loss of the season, but turned in a solid performance in the circle, allowing three runs on eight hits and a walk in 7 2/3 innings of work to go along with four strikeouts.
"It will be awfully hard to replace Haley and Lindsey (Dalton)," said Mitchell. "It will take someone who has it athletically along with having great leadership and character."
Walker and Lexi Dean (1 RBI) collected two hits apiece to pace Grace Baptist's offensive attack, while Kaitlyn Elridge singled and drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth.
The Lady Golden Eagles left a runner at third in each of the first two innings, before getting on the board in the bottom of the third thanks to a RBI bloop single by Bethany Cowart.
After leaving two women in scoring position in the top of the fourth, the Lady Bulldogs put a runner at second with two outs in the fifth thanks to a Crowell bloop single and a sacrifice bunt by Taylor Wolaver, but Grace Baptist left fielder Savannah Jeno caught a line drive by Makenzie Hopkins to extinguish the threat.
Fagan then worked around an infield single and a walk in the bottom of the fifth with the help of an 8-4-6 double play before Cornersville plated a run in the sixth to knot the score at 1-1. Following a leadoff single by Fagan, Dalton hit into a fielder's choice prior to advancing to third on a wild pitch and a Rogers single. Calahan then drove in Dalton by lacing a RBI single into centerfield.
After Fagan sat down GBA in order in the sixth and seventh innings, the Lady Bulldogs scored the go ahead run in the top of the eighth to seize a 2-1 lead. Dalton reached first on a Lady Golden Eagle error to leadoff the frame before Calahan and Ashley Beard both drew walks to load the bases with one out. Dalton was then thrown out at home on a fielder's choice by Crowell, but Campbell ripped a RBI single into centerfield to plate Calahan.
Unfortunately, CHS' lead proved to be short lived, as Walker tripled with one out before scoring on a Dean RBI infield single. After Dean stole second, Fagan retired Cowart on a groundout, but Elridge smacked a RBI single down the left field line to give Grace Baptist the 3-2 victory.