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SOFTBALL: Season ends after Lady Tigers push White County to extra innings
Layne Bailey pitches against White County at the Region 7-3A tournament on Monday, Oct. 10. She threw eight innings with six strikeouts and two earned runs. - photo by Rio White

In an elimination game at the Region 7-3A tournament, Dawson County softball’s junior pitcher Layne Bailey stood on the mound laser-focused on helping her team put up a fight against a strong White County team who had beaten the Lady Tigers twice already this season.

Bailey — and the defense behind her — did exactly that, making clutch play after play to keep the Lady Warriors at bay.

Whether it was catcher Bryce Greenwood throwing a runner out at second base to help keep White at one run or a lineout catch by Calleigh Lamb that she turned into a double play, the defense was ready to assist Bailey in any way they could. 

With every play made, the Dawson dugout became louder — and belief spread that an upset win was possible.

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“I told [the players] when we got out there that I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team come as far as this team has,” head coach Justin Rickett said. “Two weeks ago [White] beat us 17-0.”

The only problem was that the Lady Warriors were able to keep Dawson limited on offense through a combination of their own clutch plays and missed opportunities by the Lady Tigers.

After scoring one run in the first inning, White stayed in front until the fourth inning when the bats got warm for Dawson. 

Freshman Sadie Dotson hit an opposite-field double that was followed up by a Greenwood single. Sophomore Micah Burruss drove Dotson in with an RBI groundout. 

Dawson would have multiple scoring opportunities after that but came up just short on capitalizing. From flyouts to groundouts to sharply hit line drives, every ball found a line directed right at the defense. 

Yet the score would remain stuck at one run apiece, as Bailey became more locked down the further the game progressed.

Eventually, the game reached extra innings after neither team could bring a runner home. Dawson had the first major chance, placing runners on first and third in the top of the eighth inning.

A dropped pop fly gave speedster Ace Cochran a chance to score, but a strong throw by the opposing shortstop got to the catcher in time. 

Bailey continued into extra innings with no sign of fatigue, continuing to pile on the strikeouts.

One last chance presented itself for the Lady Tigers in the ninth inning, with the go-ahead run on base with two outs. A long fly ball hit by Lauren Kurtz fell just short of hitting the wall, with the outfielder catching it with little room left to run. 

An opening triple by the Lady Warriors in the bottom half of the inning put Dawson on the ropes, and on the next at-bat, White would hit a walk-off RBI hit to end the Lady Tigers’ season with a 2-1 defeat. 

For Rickett, the team’s resolve to win the previous tournament game against West Hall and the overall improvements made since a difficult start to the season was a testament to the team’s character.

“From where we’ve come from to come to the region tournament and play three games that were all walk-off games…I’m so proud of these kids and the way they fought and battled,” Rickett said. “We hit the ball hard and [White] did too. We gave up the one run but [Bailey] kept them right there until the ninth.”

The head coach also credited the support of the parents and community for helping support and uplift the team during the season.

“Anybody that was in the ballpark tonight can tell you that high school sports matter and they will continue to matter,” Rickett said. “I’ve never seen a community like the Dawson community get behind a team when it’s playoff time. They did it last year, they did it again this year and I’m looking forward to them doing it again next year.”