By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Friday’s Class 3A Sectional Softball game was moved to 4 p.m. instead of the typical 6 o’clock start between the Houston Lady Mustangs and Munford Lady Cougars.
The reason for the early start was hopes of getting the Lady Cougars seniors to their 7 p.m. graduation in time. Munford seniors like Alex Stanford had a simple request to their underclassmen teammates, ‘win the game in quick fashion.’ And young players like junior Christina Cantrell and freshmen Sam Scott obliged with several big hits leading to a 12-2 victory over Houston.
“It feels good that I don’t have to rush to get there (to graduation) and now we’re going to State,” Stanford said “ So when I get there, I get to say, ‘Hey, we’re going — again.’”
The 10-run win over the Lady Mustangs earned the Lady Cougars their third straight berth in the Class 3A State Softball Tournament being played this week in Murfreesboro.
The third trip was in doubt for a moment with the score 0-0 after two and half innings. Lady Cougar starter Tara Comer was cruising striking out several Lady Mustang batters.
Now the senior hurler needed some run support. Cantrell got things started with a base hit between the third baseman and shortstop.
Two batters later, her teammate Tori Ray drove her in to make the score 1-0 in the third inning. Then it was Scott’s turn with the bat crushing a double to score Ray.
Stanford made the score 3-0 with a single. Then Comer helped her own cause toward victory with a a base hit to make the tally 4-0.
Then Head Coach Glenn Goulder called for a delayed steal with Comer. With Comer causing a rundown between first and second base, then a run scored to make the scoreboard read 5-0 after three innings.
In the bottom of fourth inning it was Cantrell leading off again. With more confidence this time coming up to the plate, Cantrell once again laced a single between third and short.
“I had been in a slump,” she acknowledged. “I just wanted to turn things around. I tried my best to get a hit and I got it.”
Cantrell’s second hit started a four run rally in the fourth inning. Ray singled in Cantrell and Maggie Johnson to make the score 7-0.
Then another Scott double scored Ray to make the tally 8-0. Then Stanford followed with a hit to score a run giving Munford a 9-0 lead after four innings.
Players like Cantrell, Scott, Ray and Peyton Joyner stepped in to replace injuried Lady Cougars like Sami Jo Schulz and Jodie Duncan. In relief the younger Lady Cougars helped Munford beat Hardin County last Wednesday 4-3 in Savannah to win the Region 7-3A title.
And leading 9-2 after four and half innings, the healthy Lady Cougars were half of inning away from earning a berth in the State Tournament.
Once again Cantrell started things with a single between third and short. And just like clockwork, Ray singled to drive in a run.
Later in the inning, with the bases load, Scott was walked to score a run leaving the Lady Cougars one run away from the run-rule. Then it was time for Stanford to come to the plate.
“Someone in the stands said, ‘It would be great for a grand slam right here,’” she recalled. “I jokingly said, ‘I’ll probably strikeout.’ I just went up there and figured if I strikeout, there’s someone up behind me.”
There was no need for any more Lady Cougar batters. Stanford almost hit her first homer of the season. Her hit off the wall scored the 12th run of the game and gave Munford a spot in the State Tournament.
“It feels good,” Stanford concluded. “It feels better than all the other years. We’ve lost half of our team. So we had to earn this one.”