Green’s girls grab gold for Navy blue & gray
MURFREESBORO — Avery Flatford’s first pitch came in late winter, as the Farragut High School junior appeared before Knox County Board of Education asking that body to bring back high school spring sports for 2021 and bounce back from COVID-19.
Flatford’s last pitch, on the mound, proved to be a double victory that updated the softball program’s history.
Not only did the junior staff ace pitcher and her Lady Admirals teammates get to play in 2021, but Flatford’s final pitch of the season was a called third strike to complete a 37-2 final record and win the program’s first state championship since 1982, which was the first team state championship earned in school history.
“I’m pretty tired — I think I’ve earned the point to be tired,” said Flatford, having pitched all 29 Farragut innings in four games in four days (4-0 record at state and undefeated this season), after the Lady Ads rallied to slip past Coffee County 4-2 in the state championship round at Starplex softball complex Friday afternoon, May 28.
“But during the game I just wasn’t thinking about that,” added the junior, who allowed two earned runs, seven hits, a hit batter and just one walk with six strikeouts Friday in yet another complete game victory. “I was thinking about taking it one pitch at a time.
“I wasn’t letting me being tired carry me away. My team really helped pump me up. … I trusted my defense to make plays and they did. I’m super proud of my catcher (junior Autumn Caywood) for making the ball look pretty (by) framing it right there.”
“She pitched lights out all tournament,” FHS head coach Nick Green said. “She’s just amazing. She threw every pitch for us in the state tournament — four games.
“Her perseverance, her determination, her fortitude dealing with her condition (cystic fibrosis) has prepped her and gotten her ready to be able to deal with adverse situations,” he added. “She’s dealt with that stuff her whole life.”
Though falling behind 2-0 in the top of the fifth with a two-out, two-strike two-RBI single from the Lady Red Raiders, Farragut’s offense responded to adversity for a second straight game.
“They got up, but we let it fire us up, we didn’t let it bring us down,” said Flatford, District 4-AAA Pitcher of the Year.
Pinch-hitter Addison Pressley’s single got things going for FHS in the bottom of the fifth Friday. With one out, Avery “Ace” Strickland’s bunt single moved Pressley all the way to third base.
After Hannah Pfeifer’s RBI groundout cut the lead to 2-1, Cameron Young’s RBI double to left field scored Strickland, tying the game. Lauren Brakovec’s RBI single to left field scored Young to put the Lady Ads up 3-2.
“When we all came to bat, we knew we could do it,” said Young, senior third baseman and District 4-AAA Most Valuable Player. “… The on-deck people, we were all communicating, telling each other what to expect.”
Flatford worked out of a two-jam in the sixth that featured a hit-batter, a single to center field that a diving Strickland thought she caught, and a walk to load the bases.
The junior staff ace fell behind 3-0 in the count to the next Coffee County batter before rallying to force a fly-out to right field on a 3-2 pitch.
Livingston and Caywood began the FHS sixth inning with singles. A one-out Musco single to left field scored Livingston, making it 4-2.
Being a senior and having lost the 2020 season to COVID-19 “makes it even more special,” Young said. “This year, that we could actually come out and win this championship makes it amazing.
“It’s an awesome feeling.”
“It’s a great feeling to be able to go out on top,” said left fielder Jordan Kanipe, the other FHS senior starter. “After last season being lost, just being able to finish what we thought we were going to start, I just couldn’t have asked for a better way to end it.”
“This is a great team to be with, everyone is just so caring and loving,” said senior Kaleigh Taylor, who missed much of the season due to injury. “It was just so great to have another season and not miss out.
“It’s just a really great time.”
About being a state champ, “It’s amazing. I’m just lost for words; I’m just super-proud of everyone,” Flatford said. “We worked super hard to get here.”
“Overall, we just did great.”
About the team’s growth since being eliminated in substate play in 2019, “My freshman year I think we got ahead of ourselves. We weren’t focused; we thought it was going to get handed to us,” Flatford said. “This year we came back and knew we had to work hard for it.
“Offense really pulled through after they got some runs and put us ahead,” she added. “… Bats came alive, the defense was doing awesome. Although I didn’t have as many strikeouts in this game.
“… Just overall super proud of my team.”
While admitting a loss to Summit in the winner’s bracket third round Thursday, May 27, “would have completely changed the outcome” of their tourney run, Green said his girls “are amazing” for being able to bounce back. “They are determined, focused; they are persistent and relentless up and down the line-up.”
A 3-1 victory against Dickson County to open the state tourney Tuesday, May 25, was followed by a 2-0 win against those same Coffee County Lady Red Raiders Wednesday, May 26.
With the Lady Ads one strike from a 1-0 victory against Summt, the Lady Spartans got an RBI single up the middle to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh inning.
But Green’s girls responded to disappointment with a huge four-run top of the eighth inning to win 5-1.
Young’s leadoff single was followed by a Summit error, allowing Brakovec to reach base. Ava Guzowski doubled home both runners to make it 3-1. Livingston singled before Guzowski scored on a passed ball. Livingston scored on Musco’s sacrifice bunt.
Summit had just one single in the eighth, as Flatford allowed one earned run, nine hits and three walks with eight strikeouts in eight innings.