Walking into the Buford softball field, the cool of the afternoon was matched to the cool gray sky. The LadyVols of Andrew Jackson came face to face with their rivals, the Buford Yellow Jackets. Coming to the game, the Lady Vols had only lost one game in the SCHSL Class AA Upstate Championship Playoffs, and that was to Buford in the initial games of the series. Buford was undefeated during the playoffs. The bar was set very high for the LadyVols. They would have to beat the YellowJackets twice to be named Upstate Champs. The LadyVols lost the game 3-0.
Andrew Jackson starting pitcher Morgan Hendrix allowed Buford only two hits. She walked seven of the Yellow Jackets. A series of walks in the fifth inning sealed fate of the Lady Vols game. The mood of the players noticeably changed after Buford added two runs in the fifth.
The Buford pitcher Sydney Sullivan allowed twice as many the LadyVols to get on base. Kaitlyn Holden, Savannah Small, and Morgan Hendrix each hit a single. Cassidy McKittrick hit a double. While able to get on base, the LadyVols were unable to capitalize on the those advances. Both of the pitchers, Hendrix and Sullivan struck out six players.
In the 7th inning, the final batter was Savannah Small. She hit to the Buford shortstop and a tag at first ended the game and season. This loss was much deeper than most. The chance to win a championship was within reach. The LadyVols came back from the earlier loss to Buford to win their last two games. That gave a chance to take it all. That faded away when they lined up for the shaking of hands. By the time they gathered as a team in left field, several players were showing the emotions of loss.
As the players joined their family and friends, the tears flowed. Tears that were hard to witness as the loss became real. The tears that signaled just how important the game and season was to the LadyVols
The season ends with the Lady Vols a record of 21-11. The team say goodbye to six seniors players. Best of luck in your future endeavors to Kinsley, Morgan, Hannah, Kaitlyn, Bailey, and Cassidy.
Monday, the efforts to regroup and develop the team of next year begins again. Hope will rekindle for that coveted title of Champion.