It was a Friday night to remember for Tipton County high school athletics.
All within less than an hour at three different locations, three teams – Covington softball, Covington baseball and Brighton baseball – dog piled in celebration after earning berths in this week’s TSSAA Spring Fling state championships in Murfreesboro.
There were compelling storylines to go along with each win.
The Lady Chargers had not been to state since 2010 and had lost their sectional game six straight times heading into Friday’s sectional at home vs. South Gibson.
With two on and one out in the bottom of the seventh and the score tied 4-4, Lauren Vickery hit a rocket that was caught by the South Gibson shortstop for the second out. As Vickery headed back to the dugout, she whispered something to Sarah Richardson, a sophomore who was up next. Apparently she told her to send Covington to state.
Richardson singled to left, Charleigh Cole scored easily from second and the celebration was on with a 5-4 win.
“I was scared, I was so scared,” Richardson said when asked what was going through her mind when she walked up to the plate. “I was literally praying when I went up to bat.”
“It feels really good because we got a season taken away from us,” said junior Ana Gover, who hit a solo homer in the bottom of the fifth to put Covington ahead 4-3. “To extend this season is so exciting. I’m really proud of all the girls, every single one of them. I think the whole team felt the energy, like we were going to win.”
Cole hit a two-run homer for Covington in the bottom of the first and Richardson singled in a run later in the inning to give the Lady Chargers a 3-0 lead. South Gibson scored two in the second and one in the third to tie game. South Gibson’s Gracie Wiliams hit a solo homer in the top of the sixth to tie the game at 4-4, setting up the dramatic ending.
Vickery pitched well for Covington, working out of several jams to pick up the complete-game win.
Covington head coach Justus Cousar found a quiet place in the dugout moments after the win while his players continued to celebrate on the field.
“Obviously, it feels great,” he said with a laugh. “It just feels like it’s been a long time coming. We were finally able to take that next step against a really good softball team … It made a huge difference for us to be able to play at home tonight. We got that lost shot at it instead of them getting that last shot at it.”
About 30 minutes later and 60 miles away in Medina, Charger junior Chris Godwin came up with the biggest hit of his career. He launched a solo homer in the top of the ninth to give Covington a 5-4 sectional win over South Gibson and another dog pile ensued.
It did not look like the game was going to extra innings when Covington trailed 4-2 in the top of the seventh with nobody on and two outs.
Holden Warmath drew a walk and Landon Myers singled to keep the season alive before a Godwin ground ball got past the South Gibson second baseman and both runners scored.
Brennan Forbess and Paxton Messer each doubled earlier in the game and Forbess drove in two.
Warmath struck out 11 over six innings and Parker Davis pitched the final three, allowing just one hit and no runs.
Around the same time Covington was celebrating on the South Gibson mound, 82 miles away in Germantown, Brighton pitcher Logan Rushing was finishing off a 13-strikeout, four-hit gem to send the Cardinals to state for the first time in school history.
Rushing also singled, tripled and drove in two runs as Brighton defeated Houston, 4-1.
He seemed to get stronger as the game went on. Rushing struck out three of the last five batters he faced, including the final hitter, prompting his teammates to mob him on the mound.
Brighton begins Class AAA state tourney play Tuesday at 4 p.m. against Science Hill at Siegel High School. Covington baseball opens up Class AA play Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. vs. Greenbrier at Blackman High School. Covington softball’s first Class AA state game is Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. vs. Forrest at Starplex Park.
Rosemark baseball and softball also advanced to Murfreesboro with wins last week. The Lady Rebels play Silverdale Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Starplex and the Rebels take on CAK Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Middle Tennessee Christian School.