Taylor Lloyd has been mentioned in many headlines while playing softball at Soddy Daisy High School in recent years, but most of those have been as a starting pitcher.
She didn’t pitch in Friday’s sectional matchup with White County at Clifford Kirk Stadium/Lamar Lasley Field, but she was the hero the same as her bat came through with a clutch two-out, two-run single in the sixth inning that provided the winning margin in a 2-1 victory.
The win extended Soddy Daisy’s winning streak to six games, improved their overall record to 34-7, but most importantly, clinched a Sectional championship and punched their ticket for next week’s Spring Fling in Murfreesboro where the Trojans will be involved in the AAA tournament.
Friday’s game was a real pitching battle between Soddy Daisy’s Regan Rowan and White County’s Addison Adell. Rowan had allowed one run in the fourth and it was still 1-0 going to the bottom of the sixth.
The Lady Trojans only had three hits to that point, but they doubled that number in that inning when Ryli Renfro led off with a single, Jenna Sims singled with one out to put two runners on.
Abby Faires grounded to first for the second out as Renfro and Sims moved up a base. Sims was replaced by courtesy runner Savannah Miller, who scooted home with what turned out to be the winning run when Lloyd’s hard grounder went between Abell’s legs and into center field.
With newfound enthusiasm and a totally different spirit, Rowan came out and retired the Warriorettes in order in the seventh with Renfro making a diving catch of a foul ball for the final out.
“I was saying a quick prayer before I came up in that final at-bat, but I felt like I was ready for that moment,” said Lloyd following the comeback win.
“I was just hoping that I hit it hard enough, so I was thrilled when I saw it rolling past second base,” the 18-year-old senior, who is committed to play softball at University of Montevallo next fall, added.
Rowan plays a lot of first base when she’s not pitching, but she got the nod on Friday for the biggest game of the season so far. She responded with flying colors as she finished with one run allowed on just four hits. She also had 10 strikeouts and a couple of walks.
“This was so big for us, so nice for us to pull through in a game like this,” said Rowan after the game.
“I felt like I hit my spots well and my defense always plays well behind me. I had been preparing myself mentally all day, but I feel like I pitched my best game as I did well under pretty good pressure,” she added.
Kelsey Nunley-Moore, Soddy Daisy’s head coach, has been in close games like this before. Just two weeks ago, White County came to town and spoiled Senior Night with a tough 1-0 win.
The memory of that game had circulated through Moore’s head more than once on Friday, so she was just glad when game time finally arrived.
“This has been the longest day for me, waiting for this game to begin, but I’m so proud of these girls as they’ve been battling back for the past two weeks,” she said in reference to district and region tournament titles before Friday’s big win.
“I saw a few scared faces in the dugout before we batted in the sixth, but we really showed some determination to come back like we did. They had seen Taylor on senior night and that’s why I chose Regan to pitch today, but they both did a great job of helping us win this game.
“We didn’t have a lot of hits tonight, but we had enough to get the job done. I was a senior the last time Soddy Daisy won a state softball title in 2012, so maybe it’s time for another one,” she concluded with a big grin.
White County coach Jerry Roberts has been through a similar situation two years in a row now as they lost to Siegel in last year’s sectional. Friday’s heart-breaking defeat didn’t make him feel any better the second time around.
“That was a great game. We battled and scratched the entire game, but hat’s off to their pitcher as she did a great job. It all came down to a two-out hit and they got it.
“It’s been a great season and a very rewarding year, but we lost to Siegel In this very round last year. Our motto all year has been to make it one more game. We came within four outs of doing that tonight,” he added.
Soddy Daisy finished the game with six hits while White County had four.
The Warriorettes scored their only run in the fourth when they got three of those four hits.
Caydra Parker led off with a double and stole third before scoring on a single by Ashlynn Phillips. Abell then singled with one out to put two runners on, but Rowan retired the next two without further trouble.
While the Lady Trojans await the bracket announcement for next week’s state tournament, White County finishes its season at 26-9.
WHITE COUNTY 000 100 0 – 1 4 2
SODDY DAISY 000 002 x – 2 6 0
Abell and Finan; Rowan and Wilkey.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)