The co-conference champions of the SIRR Mississippi Division engaged in a great battle on the softball field for the third time this year on Saturday.
After trailing most of the game, Carterville scored two runs in the final inning to pick up a 3-2 win over Nashville in the championship game of the Johnston City Class 2A Sectional. Megan Barrett hit an RBI double to tie the game, and Kylee Rock smacked a sacrifice fly to give the Lady Lions a 3-2 edge in the top of the seventh inning.
"I was very nervous when I went up there," said Barrett, who is a freshman. "This is a big thing for us, and we had confidence in all of our teammates when we were down. This has been one of my favorite years playing softball, and I'm so happy for all of our seniors now that we get to go to the super-sectional."
Nashville standout Maci Ingram entered the top of the seventh having allowed just one hit since the first inning. She recorded a quick first out, but she walked Becky Peterson and Taylor Williams at the bottom of the Carterville lineup.
That brought up Barrett in the leadoff spot, and she delivered the game-tying double before Rock's sacrifice fly.
Carterville hurler Avery English retired the top of the Nashville lineup in order in the seventh, and she was embraced by her catcher, Rock, as the Lions celebrated.
"Even though we had 7-8-9 coming up in the seventh, we have a lot of confidence in our kids, and we just didn't want them to try to do too much," said Carterville coach Brett Diel. "We just wanted them to find a way to get on base."
Carterville still produced just five hits against Ingram, but a postseason win over one of the best Class 2A pitchers in the state is big no matter how it happens.
After the Lions tied the game, 1-1, in the top of the sixth inning, Briah Winchester hit the first pitch she saw from English over the fence to give Nashville a 2-1 lead after six innings.
"It doesn't get too much better than that for a high school softball game," said Nashville coach Dempsey Witte. "It was a well-played game by both teams, and unfortunately someone has to lose, and we came out on the wrong end today.
"It was a game of up and down swings, and I couldn't be more proud of the way our kids battled and competed."
Carterville loaded the bases with nobody out after two singles and a fielder's choice on a bunt in the first inning. But Ingram recorded three straight outs to keep the Lions off the score board.
Nellie Snead cracked an RBI double to score Emily Thompson in the second inning to put Nashville on top, 1-0. It remained that way until the sixth inning. Megan Hampton tied the game for Carterville with a run-scoring double.
English struck out seven batters and allowed only four hits in the circle for Carterville. She worked her way out of jams in four of the seven innings.
"Avery never panicked, and although she had trouble with a couple of their hitters, she handled most of them very well and the defense behind her was strong," Diel said. "What makes this sweet is not necessarily because it's Nashville it's because it's what Nashville represents. They're well-coached, their kids play hard and the right way. We're very happy and fortunate to beat a solid program today."
Carterville (28-6) takes on Teutopolis in the Johnston City Super-Sectional at 4:30 p.m. Monday.