Gray’s pitching, late clutch hit lead Hardin Valley past W-Blount at WBHS

MARYVILLE — With the confidence one would associate with a top-of-the-order hitter, Avery Thrift came through in dramatic fashion for her Hardin Valley Academy softball team on the road.

“I just walked up there knowing I was going to get a big hit,” said Thrift, a senior center fielder who had two hits, about her one-out, two-strike RBI double down the left-field line in the top of the seventh to break a 1-1 tie versus William Blount at WBHS. That blow by the No. 9 hitter in the lineup was the eventual game-winner in a 2-1 District 4-4A win Thursday evening, March 23. “Straight down the middle, there it was, and I just hit it.”

“I’m just really proud of the whole team for not giving up and playing the full seven innings and always looking for the next play,” HVA head coach Autumn Collin said about her team (3-1 overall, 1-1 in 4-4A).

Meanwhile, Lady Hawks pitching staff ace Gracie Gray, a senior, allowed just one earned run with eight hits, four strikeouts and just one walk, though she did hit five batters. “I felt good tonight,” said Gray, who added a double and a bunt single. “I had been nervous my first few games. We came here wanting to win very badly; we’ve lost to them for three years.”

Ayla Perry’s one-out bloop single in the first inning and Kaitlynn Mann’s two-out single to center field scored Perry to put Hardin Valley on top.

Two WBHS hits and a hit batter to begin the third inning ended up tying the game, on a sacrifice fly, though Gray worked out of further trouble after inducing a pop-up out and ground out.

In the Lady Govs bottom of the seventh, their leadoff hitter (a single) was pegged out a second base, attempting to steal, on a nice throw from catcher Alex Souders.

Gray allowed two more baserunners but induced a pair of infield pop-ups to end the game.

Natalie Nettles doubled for the Lady Hawks.