MURFREESBORO -- CSAS senior Brianna Taylor hurled her third straight one-hitter and fourth of the season, but it's one she'll never forget for all the wrong reasons.
The talented right-hander took a perfect game into the seventh, only to hit the second batter before giving up a two-run homer to senior shortstop Emma Arnold as the Lady Rebels rose from the dead in their final at-bat to advance with the stunning 2-1 victory.
It was a pitching dual between Taylor and Lady Rebel Brooke Baucum, who earned the victory while allowing six hits and three walks. The only run she allowed came in the fourth inning. She is now 18-7 while her team is now 22-10.
The Lady Patriots left two runners on in the first, third and fourth innings, but the only big hit came in the fourth when left-fielder Bri'Ana Parker blooped a single past second on a three-one count to drive in Brittany Patmon, who had led off with a walk and was sacrificed to second by Angela Petulla.
It looked like one run might be enough as Taylor looked strong from the beginning until the end, but the Lady Rebels made their first trip to the state in 16 years a memorable one with the improbable comeback.
"I think these girls just like to make me sweat, but we never gave up and that was the difference," said McKenzie coach Rebecca Jones shortly after the game ended.
"We've been working hard on being more patient in the box and Emma can be impatient at times, but it only takes one inning and one big hit to win a game like this. I'm really proud of our perseverance and stay-with-it attitude, but this is pretty sweet," Jones added.
Arnold is McKenzie's leading home run hitter. Tuesday's blast was her sixth of the season, but chances are good that none have been any bigger or on any larger stage.
"I was hoping to get an inside pitch, but it was outside. I knew when I hit it that it was gone, but I was just looking to get a hit and it turns out that it came at just the right time," she explained with a big smile on her face.
CSAS coach Kaity Holloway certainly couldn't fault Taylor or anybody else on the team for the gut-wrenching defeat.
"Bri had a perfect game going into the seventh and we played great as a team. I don't think we could have done any more, but we'll just have to come back tomorrow morning ready to play again," she said after her team fell to 25-11-1 for the season.
While Arnold had the only hit for McKenzie, second baseman Victoria Blanton was the only CSAS player with more than one hit and she finished with two bunt singles.
Taylor had an infield single in the first while Parker's run-scoring single came in the fourth. Mercedes Benn had a two-out single in the sixth.
The Lady Patriots left 11 runners stranded, including the bases loaded in the seventh.
Blanton reached on her second bunt with one out before Kiara Suttles singled to left. Baucum got Jamani Greer on a liner to second for out two before Brittany Patmon walked to load the bases. Angela Petulla then grounded hard to first, but Savannah Pratt made a nice defensive play to end the inning without any further damage.
Taylor allowed the one run and two hits while striking out 10 and walking none.
There was one out when Arnold hit her game-winning homer.
The Lady Patriots return to action on Wednesday when they face Columbia Academy at 10 a.m. (CST). The Lady Bulldogs are now 38-6 following a 3-0 loss to Knoxville Grace.
ARTS & SCIENCES 000 100 0 -- 1 6 0
McKENZIE 000 000 2 -- 2 1 1
Taylor and Suttles; Baucum and Laws.
(Email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@Comcast.net)