By Rick Sheek
Hampton’s softball program is no doubt on the rise.
After eliminating perennial power Unaka in the losers’ bracket semifinal, the Lady Bulldogs came up short 5-2 to North Greene in Thursday night’s District 1-A losers’ bracket final at Ronnie Hicks Field.
“My girls battled,” Hampton coach Bill Doss said. “We came in as a No. 4 seed and we knocked off the No. 2 seed to get here. They fought, they battled – I’m proud of them.”
The Huskies (11-15) qualified for Monday’s Region 1-A semifinals, and meet University High (27-10) this evening in the championship round.
Hampton (13-17) had tied the nightcap in the fourth inning on Haley Trusler’s two-run single. However, the Bulldogs left the bags juiced.
All five of North Greene’s runs were unearned. The Bulldogs committed six errors, including half those in the decisive fifth.
A pair of Huskies crossed on an error, and Darine Bailey belted a run-scoring double to complete the onslaught.
The Bulldogs loaded the bases in the sixth, stranding all three base runners. The left 10 on total.
“I think the left on base killed me more than the errors,” Doss said. “In clutch situations like that, we’ve just got to get the runs in. That’s the bottom line, and the more they learn I think we’ll do that.
“I think next year we’ll be right back in the thick of things.”
Danielle Guinn led the finale off with a single, but was gunned down on a fielder’s choice at second base.
In the second, Hampton committed three errors. North Greene went up 2-0.
Carmen Cauldron and Molly Crabtree each singled in the third, before being stranded.
Crabtree scattered three hits. She struck out three and walked one.
The Huskies’ Megan Taylor was roughed up for nine hits. The runs weren’t earned, and she fanned one with two walks.
Guinn batted 3 for 4. Cauldron went 2 for 3.
“They came a long way this year,” Doss said of his players. “They’re a heck of a ball club. They’re a heck of a bunch of girls to coach, and I think our program is only going to get better.”
Guinn fired a one-hitter, as well as slugging the game-winning home run in the seventh.
“Danielle will be our pitcher next year,” Doss said. “She’s been working hard to get where she’s at. She’s a great athlete, and I think she will have good things in front of her next year.
“She was the big factor out there for us in the first game, but our defense backed her up.”
The Rangers (11-25) had captured the past 27 district championships.
“Again, we didn’t come through with our bat,” Unaka coach Carrie Stevens said. “We got lead-off runners on, bunted them over and then just nobody to bring them in. But the girl had a good hit to win the game, so you can’t do anything about that.”
Guinn struck out four and walked three while allowing the two earned runs. Crabtree batted 2 for 3, while Guinn was 2 for 4.
The Bulldogs grabbed a 2-0 advantage in the second. Guinn doubled and later crossed on an error, and Crabtree plated a score.
In the bottom half, Unaka stranded runners on second and third. The affair was knotted in the fourth after Leslie Colbaugh led off with a homer and Alicia Colbaugh tagged a sacrifice fly.
The Rangers left a runner on third in each of their final two at-bats.
Leslie Colbaugh was touched for four hits and one earned run. She fanned one with no walks.
“I just feel like we never reached our peak in the season,” Stevens said. “We just kind of leveled off, and never did what we should have. We’re young, but next year they won’t have an excuse.
“Everybody on our team has experience this year.”
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1-A Losers’ Bracket Semifinal
Hampton 002 000 1 — 3 4 2
Unaka 000 200 0 — 2 1 4
Guinn and M. Burchett. L. Colbaugh and J. Matheson. W–Guinn. L–Colbaugh. HRs–Hampton: Guinn; Unaka: L. Colbaugh.
1-A Losers’ Bracket Final
Hampton 000 200 0 — 2 9 6
N. Greene 020 030 x — 5 3 2
Crabtree and Guinn. Taylor and D. Bailey. W–Taylor. L–Crabtree.