Most stories like this end with the home team hoisting a championship trophy.
This one does not have a happy ending like that.
Instead, it’s a tale of the most successful Tipton County high school softball team ever and how close it got to bringing the county its first softball state title, something that, 10 years later, still has not been done.
The principal players and coach from the 2010 Covington Lady Charger softball team do not remember many of the details.
“It’s been 10 years, right?” says C.J. Browder, a senior shortstop on that team. “To be completely honest, I really don’t remember much. I just remember how heartbreaking it was. I just remember being really pissed off that we didn’t do it. We didn’t want to just do it for us, but for so many people. I think we carried the weight around of that for a few years. I know I did.”
“Gosh, that was 10 years ago,” says Bailey (Morgan) Britt, a senior catcher in 2010 who was known for firmly letting teammates know when they weren’t putting forth their best effort. “It was definitely the best season of my life. It’s hard to say one thing. Things just kind of built up since I was a freshman and that seemed like the big shebang. At the time we all thought it was our year.”
Martha Lawler, who was in her 26th season as head coach and would coach three more seasons before retiring, can’t recall a ton of details of the 2010 season. She does, however, remember the feeling of coming up short.
“It’s so bad you still can’t get over it after 10 years,” Lawler says.
Entering the 2010 season, Covington had advanced to the state tournament 12 consecutive years. The Lady Chargers finished second in 1986, 1989 and 2006 and third in 2009. With three senior starters, including lights-out pitcher Sarah Elizabeth Cousar Poston, and some very talented younger players, 2010 had the feel of a breakout year.
Things started off incredibly well.
Covington opened the season by finishing second in the Sara Beth Whitehead Tournament in Jackson, Tenn. The Lady Chargers beat Camden (more on that team later) and several other strong teams before falling in the title game to Trinity Christian Academy. TCA featured pitcher Ellen Renfroe, who went on to play for the University of Tennessee, and ended the 2010 season by winning its fourth Class A state title in five seasons.
The Lady Chargers then won 37 straight games and multiple tournament titles to get back to the Class AA tournament in Murfreesboro for the 13th straight time with a gaudy 45-1 record.
“We always had the expectation of going to state,” says Poston. “It was always expected of us. You work hard all season because you know it’s your job to get there.”
“The legacy was, ‘You’re going to state.’ It wasn’t even a question,” says Molly (Griffin) Glass, a junior first baseman in 2010. “That was the way it was.”
In several years prior to 2010, Covington lost its state tournament opener and had to play through the losers’ bracket, which is very difficult to do. That wasn’t the case in 2010.
Poston pitched a three-hit shutout with six strikeouts and no walks to lead Covington past Chattanooga Central 2-0 in the tournament opener. Jamie Hollingsworth, who had transferred from Munford in the offseason, had an RBI-double to pace the offense.
Knoxville Gibbs, a team that won eight state titles, was up next.
Autumn Glenn, a talented junior, was the story in a 6-3 win. She was 3 for 4 with a solo homer and struck out six over seven innings to earn the win. Poston drove in two runs and Britt had a pair of hits as Covington advanced to the winners’ bracket final against Camden.
Covington jumped out to an early 5-0 lead and Poston drove in three and got the win over Camden in a 5-4 Covington victory.
That meant Camden, which eliminated Gibbs in a losers’ bracket game, would have to beat the Lady Chargers twice to deny them a state title.
“I remember going into the (first) game,” Glass says. “It seemed like the whole town had come after we beat them the first time. They had to beat us twice. We felt like we were on top the world and we were going to be state champs.”
“We kind of thought all year we would end up in that state championship game,” says Allie Moss, a sophomore outfielder on that team. “But there was never a thought it would end like it did, obviously.”
Covington’s first crack at a state title did not go well on a Friday night.
Camden’s bats were hot and it scored in all but two innings in a 16-7 win. Britt drove in three runs and Gabby Glenn, Autumn’s freshman sister, knocked in two, but it was not nearly enough.
“Camden was lights out that first game,” Britt says. “We had never been beaten that bad. They had the upper hand going into the last game.”
The two teams would play a winner-takes-all game the following morning.
“Every time we shifted defense, they hit it where we weren’t,” Lawler says about the loss. “We got back to hotel and I told them, ‘Look, they just had one of those games. We’ve had them before. They will not hit like this on Saturday.’ I was just trying to keep them up. They were really wanting to win it Friday night. So was I.”
Things were looking up early on in the final.
Autumn Glenn and Browder opened the top of the first with consecutive singles and Poston drove in Glenn with a ground ball to put the Lady Chargers ahead 1-0. That ended up being last Covington run of the 2010 season.
Camden led 4-1 heading in the top of the seventh before Covington put together one final rally.
Autumn Glenn and Browder again led off with singles before Britt came up to bat with two on and two out. She hit it well to left, but Sunni Duffey made a nice catch and that was that.
“You want to be the hero, the one who ties it up,” says Britt. “I was standing there and then I was sitting there on second base, just crying. It was over. I vividly remember that. I really thought, it’s going to go over, it’s going to go over, it’s going to go over, and it didn’t.”
“The game was upsetting because it was something we had been working toward forever, but it was more a chapter closing that bothered us the most,” says Poston, who played with many of that year’s players in youth and traveling ball for multiple years. “We knew there wasn’t a next year for this team. I think the whole thing that upset us the most was the end of Charger softball for us.”
“It was heartbreaking,” says Moss. “Just knowing how much talent we had on that team, the seniors leading the way, it was heartbreaking we couldn’t pull it out for them.”
Says Britt: “I hate to sound so dramatic, but it was pure devastation. When you think you’re going in as the top dog and you’ve got it … “
The 2010 team was incredibly talented. The first six batters in the order – Autumn Glenn, Browder, Poston, Gabby Glenn, Britt and Moss – all went on to play softball in college. The Glenn sisters played at UT-Martin, Browder went to Union University and Poston, Britt and Moss played at Freed-Hardeman.
Covington finished with a 48-3 record, which set a record for wins at Covington that still stands. All three losses came against eventual state champs. Covington softball has not made it back to Murfreesboro since 2010.
Poston is an assistant softball coach at Covington High and was hoping to get the 2020 team back to state. With the season cancelled, that will not happen.
Browder lives in Minnesota and works for Blast Motion, a hitting technology company.
Glass is a teacher and volleyball coach at Covington High School.
Britt is a teacher and coach for a high school in Alabama.
Moss is a former teacher who now works in retail.
All five acknowledge the season ended on a major bummer, but they still have very fond memories of the best season in Covington High softball history.
“I just remember how fun high school softball was,” says Poston. “We loved winning and we loved playing together.”
Says Britt: “It was the best season of my life in the sense of memories, camaraderie. At that time, all you wanted to do was win, and of course I wanted that. It was just a special year and a special moment to share with those girls you grew up with. To go out like that, even though we didn’t win, it was still great.”