MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — A historic day for Sale Creek softball came up just a bit shy of becoming monumental.
Making the first appearance in a state championship game for any sport in school history, the Lady Panthers battled back through the losers bracket to reach the Class A state championship game before falling 7-5 to Summertown on Friday.
"This is a really big accomplishment — the first time for our school to play for a state championship — so I'm very proud of the kids," said Sale Creek coach Clifford Kirk, who was trying to claim an 11th overall championship with his third program. "I wanted the whole enchilada, but we just couldn't get it.
"It's really tough when you have to come out of the losers bracket and play so many games just to get to this point. You're worn out. I think we got tired, but we kept fighting."
Sale Creek (36-7) reached the title game with a dramatic 3-1 win over Cascade earlier Friday when Trinity Liner, one of only two seniors on the roster, delivered a two-out, three-run home run in the top of the seventh inning.
The Lady Panthers took an early lead over Summertown on Macie Stanfield's homer to left field in the home half of the first. The Lady Eagles answered with two runs in the second and four in the third and survived a four-run rally by Sale Creek in the sixth when Liner and Shelby Sullivan each had an RBI and Kristen Sharp drove in two with a double.
"We felt pretty good about what we had going in that inning, but we had just fallen too far behind to pull it off," Kirk said. "We've got all but two players back and I'm sure more will be coming out of the woodworks wanting to play for us now, so we'll be back and next year everybody will know who we are."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.