Roxanna Kimes and Mady Kate Gantt, two key members of Tipton-Rosemark Academy's state championship softball team in 2011, were in the stands cheering Friday morning in Murfreesboro.
Ashton Needham, who was a freshman on that team, was in the pitching circle as the Lady Rebels went for state title number two in the DII-A final against Davidson Academy.
Former players, current players, TRA fans and parents in attendance got what they came for as TRA pulled away late for an 8-4 win, earning the program's second state title in four years.
The Lady Rebels (27-11) led just 3-2 before scoring five times in the top of the sixth to take complete control of the game.
Moments after the game, first-year head coach Johnie Sanfratello said he was kind of in shock.
“For a minute there, no one seemed to understand what had just happened,” Sanfratello said, describing the team's reaction after the game's final out. “I think we're just now starting to figure out we did something great. The girls played so well. They battled the last couple of days. Our young girls really stepped up. Everybody did. We really played hard as a team.”
Davidson rallied for a couple of runs in the bottom of the seventh before Sally Downing threw to Rachel Whitley for the final out.
“First of all I was thinking I really hope we get this girl out at first because I was getting really hot and sweaty,” Needham said. “I just kind of went numb. Then I was like, wow, we just won it. Then I realized that was my last game as a senior with all these girls.”
Bethany Berger and Needham led off the sixth with consecutive singles, Jordan Collins doubled and Anna Claire Williams and Downing each followed with singles as TRA blew the game open.
With scored tied 1-1, TRA scored twice in the top of the fifth. Singles from Collins, Williams, Whitley and Katie Diggs produced the runs.
Needham went all seven innings for TRA to earn the win. She struck out seven, walked just two and scattered seven hits.
TRA's bats were hot most of the game, racking up 14 hits against Davidson pitchers Savannah Car and Kelsey Thompson. Collins (4 for 4) and Williams (3 for 4) led TRA. Berger was 2 for 4.
“Our team has an amazing offense,” Needham said. “Everybody gets up in the dugout. I personally think once we get going, nobody can stop us. It's great having an offense like that supporting me.”
When the season started in March, Sanfratello felt like his new squad had what it took to get to Murfreesboro.
“I knew we had the talent, but I didn't know how they would react to a new coach,” Sanfratello said. “We have a lot of team players and leaders. I just wasn't sure how I would fit in. The girls have been great. They've done everything I've asked of them. They worked hard and never complained, and now you see the result.”