The district championship game was over. Houston’s seniors lingered on the outfield grass as they hugged their teammates and coaches.
Then they walked off Carter Field for the final time.
The careers of Olivia Woosley and Lizzy Swindell that included Houston’s first-ever softball district title two years earlier were finished. The Lady Tigers pulled off a semifinal upset to reach another championship game, but this time they came up short this time.
“They knew what it felt like to celebrate a district championship,” HHS coach Brent Hall said following his team’s 14-4 five-inning loss Sunday to Neelyville in the title game of Class 2 District 8. “And now they know what it feels like to have your heart ripped out and watch the other team celebrate.”
After waiting three days for the semifinal that was suspended by rain on Thursday, the Lady Tigers advanced to the championship game by beating top-seeded East Carter 8-5.
Woosley gave HHS (13-13) an early championship advantage with a two-run home run in the first inning, and the Lady Tigers were ahead 4-3 after the top of the third. But five Houston errors led to five unearned runs for a hot-hitting Neelyville team that had 12 hits and scored the game’s final 11 runs.
“I could tell in warmups we were nervous,” Hall said. “We tried to tell them to enjoy the moment but to also realize it was just another game.”
The game ended with Riley Washburn’s two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth to give Neelyville its third overall district championship and first since 2002.
“We could have played flawless ball and maybe still gotten beaten by them,” Hall said. “They are deserving of winning the district. That’s for sure.”
Houston, which didn’t hit a home run during the regular season, found power at the plate in the postseason.
Sophomore Tommi Franklin homered to spark a 10-run fifth inning in last Wednesday’s 16-6 district-opening victory against Liberty. Swindell hit a grand slam during the rally and Tori McCloud, who had three hits, ended the game with a RBI single.
Franklin also homered in the semifinals as HHS knocked out the tournament’s top seed, East Carter. She and leadoff hitter Autumn Walker drove home two runs apiece.
The Lady Tigers led 5-2 on Thursday when the game was suspended by heavy rains. It resumed at 2 p.m. Sunday and Houston scored three insurance and held on to advance.
Kylee Elmore, who joined the team for the first time as a senior, had two complete-game victories in the postseason.
“We couldn’t have gotten this far without her,” Hall said. “What was a big question mark when we started wasn’t a factor when we finished the season. That’s a tribute to her and how hard she worked.”
The championship game loss was the end of an era for the program as two key members of the Lady Tigers’ lone championship team from 2012 concluded their careers. Walker, a junior, is the lone remaining player from that team.
“They took our softball program places it had never been before,” Hall said of Woosley and Swindell. “They are pioneers.”
They took our softball program places it had never been before. They are pioneers.”
The first version of the story incorrectly stated Olivia Woosley and Lizzy Swindell were the last remaining members of the 2012 district team. Junior Autumn Walker will be the last player from that championship team.