MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Silverdale Baptist Academy lost one of its biggest weapons in the Division II-A softball state final but in the meantime Friday may have found another one.
Playing without their standout shortstop and leadoff batter Kaili Phillips through practically all of both championship games, the Lady Seahawks finished off their run to the school's first TSSAA title in any sport Friday by defeating Tipton-Rosemark 6-4.
"I can't say enough about these kids," Silverdale coach Tim Couch said. "We had some adversity to overcome this year."
Among that adversity was Couch's close friend Mike Gamble having his 22-year-old daughter Rachel die April 29. The men worked and coached together in the Frost Falcons' travel-ball organization for 20 years.
More recent adversity came in the form of Phillips, a Tennessee signee, being ejected in the bottom of the first inning of Thursday's first game of the final. Although Silverdale (30-8) went on to win 3-1 to force the second game, Phillips was ruled to have made a "malicious slide" at home plate and was booted for the rest of that game and forced to sit out Friday's game as well.
"It was definitely hard to endure, but in the end it's not about me. It's all about the team," said Phillips, who still wore her uniform with the hope of being in the celebratory pictures afterward. "We have to work together. We always have to stay up in the dugout and keep momentum going.
"I became the biggest cheerleader. I think they heard me."
While Phillips has been a mainstay in the lineup all year, Breanna Sexton, a transfer from Lookout Valley, became eligible May 10 and saw her name on the lineup card Friday as the designated player. SBA had just seen its 4-0 lead cut to one run in the bottom of the fourth before Sexton came to bat in the top of the fifth. After McCade Cooper was hit by a pitch with two outs, Sexton then launched a drive over the left-field fence.
"She's certainly capable of doing that," Couch said. "We're happy to get her here. She has lot to work on, like a lot of them do, but she has a lot of talent."
The freshman apparently didn't try to overthink the situation.
"Really I was just thinking, 'Get a hit,'" Sexton said. "I tried to relax and be disciplined at the plate. It all worked out really good."
Couch praised pitcher Maddie Tankersley, who is committed to Alabama-Huntsville, for carrying the workload in the pitching circle in the tournament, and all season. She also went 2-for-4 with an RBI in the championship game. Savannah Turner, who inherited Phillips' leadoff spot, also went 2-for-4 with an RBI, and she scored a run and stole two bases.
In 2015 Daniel Kennedy and Braden Marshall teamed to win Silverdale a fishing state championship, but Friday's accomplishment was a first TSSAA title of any kind at the school. Coach Chip Liner started the SBA softball program. Its first varsity season was 2006.
"I never would've fathomed this before the season," Couch said. "These girls showed a lot of grit and grind. We're tough on them in practice, and hopefully that translates to fun in the games. Sometimes when you empower kids they can do amazing things. We had great leadership on this team."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter @KelleySmiddie.