Lady Choctaws season ends in AAA semis

Friday, May 24, 2024
Lady Choctaw seniors Maddie Claire Wilkerson and Allie Shires (12) embrace following Dyer County’s season-ending loss to Carter in the TSSAA Class AAA Semifinals on Thursday in Murfreesboro.
State Gazette photo/Jason Peevyhouse

JASON PEEVYHOUSE

jpeevyhouse@stategazette.com

After rain shortened the second day of the TSSAA Class AAA State Tournament on Wednesday in Murfreesboro, the Lady Choctaw softball team had the tall task of winning three games to earn the right to play for the state championship and came within one of those wins of doing so as a four-run sixth inning propelled Carter to a 6-2 win over the orange and white on Thursday.

Dyer County third baseman Evie Rogers leaps for a liner during the first semifinal game on Thursday.
State Gazette photo/Jason Peevyhouse

Dyer County Head Coach Shanna O’Bright has talked about her team’s relentlessness through the course of the 2024 season and postseason. This was no different on Thursday.

“That’s the thing that I have said over and over about this team,” O’Bright said. “They’re relentless. They do not know how to give up.”

After the Lady Hornets worked around a leadoff single from Kierstyn Ray in the top of the first inning, Carter was able to get on the board in the bottom of the frame. Marah Yeo led off the frame with a single then stole second before advancing to third on a ground out. A second ground out followed to score Yeo and put the Lady Hornets on top 1-0 after one inning.

Dyer County went down in order in the second but the Lady Choctaws were able to work around a one-out single from Bailee Stout to keep it a one-run game through two innings.

The Lady Choctaws looked to be putting together a rally in the top of the third after a one-out walk from Abbie Gibbons and a single from Ray. Senior Maddie Claire Wilkerson bunted the two over 60 feet but a flyout stranded the two with the Lady Choctaws still trailing.

Carter got back on the board in the bottom of the third and Yeo was the catalyst again. She singled with one out then doubled when Malaney Etherton doubled to put the Lady Hornets up 2-0 after three frames.

After sitting down the Lady Choctaws in order in the fourth, Carter looked to add to its lead with singles from Nevaeh Miller and Jenna Wilson. A sacrifice bunt followed before a ground out ended the Carter threat in the fourth.

The Lady Choctaws were able to chip away at the Carter lead beginning in the fifth inning. A one-out single from Emma Fair got things started. Fellow senior Allie Shires pinch ran for Fair and reached second on a pass ball before advancing to third on a Gibbons groundout. Ray reached on an error which plated Shires to cut the Carter lead to 2-1 after four and a half innings.

Yeo looked to continue to be a bane for the Lady Choctaws as she led off the bottom of the fifth with a single. But, after a pop out to the next batter, a flyball to center was caught by Ray who was able to double off Yeo who had strayed too far from first to keep it a one-run game.

With two out in the top of the sixth, the Lady Choctaws seized the momentum after Katie Beth Caldwell single. Evie Rogers doubled to score Caldwell and tie the game heading into the bottom of the sixth.

“I am proud of the entire team effort and the fact that they do not quit,” O’Bright said of the team’s fight in the later innings of the semifinal loss.

Carter had a big bottom of the sixth. McKinley Grubb lead off the inning with a solo home run then Miller narrowly missed one herself as she doubled off the top of the centerfield fence. Stout singled then a fielder’s choice two batters later plated another run. Later in the inning, A two-run single gave Carter a 6-2 lead heading into the final frame.

Dyer County was able to get a one-out walk from Gibbons and a two-out single from Wilkerson to delay defeat before a fly out ended the Lady Choctaw season just one win away from playing for a state championship.

“I couldn’t be more proud of what they’ve accomplished,” O’Bright said. “I couldn’t be prouder of this whole team effort all season.”

Ray had a pair of singles to lead the way for the Lady Choctaws at the plate. Rogers’ RBI double in the sixth was the lone extra-base hit of the game for Dyer County.

Wilkerson took the loss in relief in the circle, allowing four runs on eight hits in 3.2 innings.

Dyer County’s season ends with a record of 29-17. The loss marks the end of the high school careers of the Lady Choctaw trio of Wilkerson, Fair, and Shires.

Dyer County 4, Carter 2

The Lady Choctaws almost had to go straight from a revenge win over Lexington into the first semifinal game before Mother Nature gave them a brief reprieve in the form of a lightning delay. When the Dyer County girls did take the field, the Lady Choctaws scored in each of the first three innings and were able to limit the Lady Hornets sting for the two-run win to force a second semifinal game.

Ray was hit by a pitch to open the game and the freshman made them pay, getting to second on a Wilkerson sacrifice bunt then scoring on an Emma Wray single to give Dyer County a 1-0 lead after one half inning.

After sitting down the Lady Hornets in order, the Lady Choctaws got a leadoff single from Rogers in the top of the second inning. Kennedy Hill sacrificed her to third (after she had advanced to second on a passed ball. Then Rogers scored on another passed ball to put the Lady Choctaws up 2-0.

Carter got one of those runs back in the bottom of the frame. A one-out walk by Miller lead to a run-scoring fielder’s choice by Wilson to cut the Dyer County lead to 2-1 after two innings.

Dyer County had an answer in the top of the third inning. Wilkerson drew a walk then moved to second on a Wray sac bunt. Rylee Key reached on an error before a sacrifice fly push Wilkerson across to give the Lady Choctaws a 3-1 lead.

The two-run lead was brief as back-to-back doubles from Etherton and Rucker led to a run to cut he Dyer County lead to 3-2 after three innings.

Dyer County put together a threat in the top of the fifth with a two-out rally featuring three straight singles form Key, Caldwell, and Rogers. But, a groundout ended the threat with the Lady Choctaws still up one.

The Lady Choctaws were able to get out of a two-out jam after an Etherton single and an error before Wilkerson struck out the next batter to end the fifth inning.

Dyer County was able to tack on an insurance run in the top of the sixth as Wray walked and Rey reached on an error before Caldwell fielder’s Choice plated a run as courtesy runner Emma McGavock scored ahead of the throw to extend the Dyer County lead to 4-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh.

Wilkerson and the Dyer County defense then retired the Lady Hornets in order in the bottom of the seventh to keep their season alive.

Rogers led the way for the Lady Choctaws with a pair of singles in the win.

Key picked up the win, allowing two runs on two hits with two strikeouts in three innings. Wilkerson pitched the final four scoreless innings, allowing two hits while striking out three.

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