Raiders force No. 1 Tecumseh to rally for winMay 28, 2019
By LYNN ADAMS
LYNNVILLE — Amid the pomp and grandeur of a softball legacy that includes three state championships since 2009, another half dozen state runner-up and state finalist finishes, and season records that commonly include 25 or more wins, Southridge went to Tecumseh High School on Tuesday evening knowing that if the Raiders could prevail in one game on one night in the Class 2A regional final, the Braves’ gaudy records and state tournament placards that adorn the outfield fence would matter for naught.
And when the Raiders owned a 2-1 advantage in the sixth inning, overcoming the heraldry that is Tecumseh softball seemed a distinct possibility. The No. 1 Braves’ history of 12 regional championships since 2000 did not appear insurmountable.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, however, after a 5-2 come-from-behind rally, Tecumseh now has its 13th regional title.
Southridge was able to enjoy its 2-1 edge for as long as it took for the first Tecumseh batter to loft a routine fly ball to center field in the bottom of the sixth inning. After that, freshman Kaybree Oxley sent the first pitch from Lydia Genet over the center field fence — her second solo homer of the game — to tie the game at 2.
Then Tecumseh’s history and ranking and confidence started paying dividends. The next five Braves reached the basepaths on three singles and two walks to account for four runs and return the regional crown to the Tecumseh trophy case.
“It didn’t end the way we wanted it, but the girls really fought, really battled. Tecumseh’s the No. 1 team in 2A for a reason. They’ve won a lot of state championships and [have] a lot of tradition,” Southridge coach Scott Buening acknowledged after the game.
But Buening took understandable pride in his team.
“Our girls never broke. Tecumseh put a lot of pressure on us. That Oxley girl’s a phenom to hit two home runs in a game like this. But [Tecumseh] needed to have [those home runs]. Our girls did a great job of managing the rest of the lineup. They forced them to beat us, and they did. We’ve got to tip our cap to them. I’m so proud of this team and the effort they put out there.”
Before a standing-room-only crowd, the teams went toe to toe through the first three and a half scoreless innings. Oxley then put the first run on the scoreboard with a blast over the left field fence to start the bottom of the fourth frame.
After a three-up, three-down inning for both teams in the fifth, Southridge (17-8) made sure Tecumseh (24-3) knew the regional championship was not going to be decided without a fight.
Macie Marley led off with a single to center field, and Kennedy Nalley followed with a base hit to left field. Petyon Nalley then moved both runners into scoring position with a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt. Then with two outs, Briley King dropped a two-run single into center field to plate Marley and Kennedy Nalley for the lead.
“You know, the sixth inning and we’re up 2-1 and we’ve got a shot. A lot of credit to Tecumseh for doing what they needed to do in the bottom of the sixth, and that’s what good teams do.
Our pitchers did a good job of putting pressure on their hitters and forcing them to hit some tough pitches. Our defense made some really good plays out in the field, really hung in there. They got the big home run to lead off the inning, and some of their balls after that found grass. That’s just the way it goes. I was really pleased with our effort. They’re a team you’ve got to make them earn their way on [the bases], because they’re going to earn their way on plenty. We forced them to have to get hits to beat us, and they got enough to do it. They were able to string a few hits together, and it was enough,” Buening assessed.
Tecumseh sent nine batters to the plate in the sixth stanza, the final two retired by pitcher Myah Montgomery in relief of Genet.
The Raiders then were unable to generate an offensive answer in the seventh inning, touching off a Tecumseh title celebration, and giving Coach Gordon Wood his 300th victory.
“What a season. Our seniors — we’ve got a tremendous group of them. They’ve been through some hard times in softball over the last few years. They were a team that bought in and committed to being great teammates, they played for each other. They didn’t worry about stats, they didn’t worry about anything, but tried to come out and get better every day,” Buening said.
Pointing out that Tecumseh defeated Southridge 10-0 on May 9, Beuning admitted that “we could have just come out and accepted our fate, [but] we battled and competed and we answered back from some tough lessons this year. That’s the thing I’m most proud about this team this year. In the sectional, we had to come back and win two of the three games that we played, and we won two of them in our last at bats, and it takes a lot of guts and a lot of character. It takes a lot of girls caring about one common goal to do that. That’s the thing I’m most proud of with this group is they sacrificed themselves for the good of the team, and raised the expectation and standard in our program.”
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