BY MIKE BLACKERBY
MURFREESBORO — Even after Jefferson County got shellacked 10-1 by Siegel to force a second and deciding state Class AAA softball championship game Friday, Lady Patriots coach Hillary Love still had faith that her team would bounce back.
“It’s about grit, toughness — it’s what we preach every day,” said Love.
Just as she expected, Jefferson County (26-11) bounced back with a vengeance to claim a 3-0 victory over the Lady Stars for its first state softball crown.
“We didn’t show it the first game, but I think we were the tougher team mentally,” said Love.
“They (Siegel) are more athletic, but we had to come back our roots and scrap and fight. I told our girls that once we got here, don’t be satisfied (with finishing second).”
After struggling in Game 1, sophomore pitcher Catelyn Riley rebounded with a masterpiece for the Lady Patriots.
She went the full seven innings, allowing just three hits and walking only two.
“The only thing I could do was rebound and trust my defense,” said Riley.
She said the two-hour break between games allowed the Lady Patriots to regroup.
“It was super beneficial for us, getting to bond together as a team. I had kind of a thirst.”
Riley said Love and the coaching staff made some key changes.
“Our coaches are phenomenal. We wouldn’t be here without them.”
One coaching move that paid off big time was moving junior catalyst Makayla Alvey from the No. 2 slot to the lead-off batter.
Alvey went 2-for-4, scored two runs and helped the Lady Patriots get off to a fast start and regain their confidence.
She singled to open the game and later scored on Santanna Hall’s RBI single as Jefferson County jumped to a 2-0 lead out of the gate.
“That was really big getting ahead in the first inning,” said Alvey, who applauded Riley’s pitching comeback in Game 2.
“She’s our stud sophomore pitcher,” she said with a laugh.
— JCHS (@JCHSSports) May 25, 2019
Jefferson County added an insurance run in the seventh when Alvey knocked a two-out single, stole second base and scored on Jessica Odom’s single past first base.
Love said the Lady Patriots realized what was on the line in the second game after coming up short earlier in the day against the Lady Stars (43-9).
“We let them know that this was the last one, the last chance. In life, sometimes you don’t get a second chance.”
But Jefferson County did and the Lady Patriots seized the moment.