MURFREESBORO — Alcoa softball coach Sarah Bailey recognized something was special about the Lady Tornadoes before they even stepped foot on the field during the preseason.
A former Tennessee standout, Bailey took over Alcoa’s program this year. It didn’t take her long to set the bar high, setting her sights on advancing to the Class AA state tournament for the first time since 2006.
“It’s crazy to say it, but I think we knew it (was possible) that first day of practice,” Bailey said. “We went a did some team building stuff in preseason, and that’s when we did the goals.”
The Lady Tornadoes crossed every item off their list — including their first state tournament appearance in 13 years — before their season came to an end in the Spring Fling on Wednesday against Sequatchie County.
MacKenzie Turner sparked the Indians (32-11) to a 7-0 victory, striking out 18.
Alcoa finished 24-12-1, with district and regional titles under its belt.
“I think the belief that we had in each other was really key,” Bailey said. “We got some really important seniors that have built a legacy at Alcoa. Even though I’ve only had them one year they’re starting what’s hopefully a tradition. We want this expectation. We want to be here at the end of every season.”
Those seniors are first baseman Jayla Carter, left fielder Kaylee Stuckey, shortstop Audrey Roach and catcher Bree Shoemaker.
Bailey said those four wanted to win “worse that anybody out here today.”
“It’s really important to have people who can lead from the front,” she said. “I’m just thankful to be a part of their journey.”
The Lady Tornadoes stayed within two runs of Sequatchie County for four innings, but they didn’t have an answer for the Indians’ five runs in the top of the fifth.
Turner struck out Alcoa’s final six batters, bringing her strikeout total to 312 for the season. She was two away from matching the state tournament game record of 20.
Bailey said Turner spun the ball well and kept hitters off balance.
“Even though we didn’t come out and perform offensively, I think they saw they can compete and we just have to take what we learned here and work even harder in the preseason,” Bailey said. “The more that you get used to it, the less ‘deer in the headlights’ it kind of is — it takes away those butterflies.”
SieAnna Cameron also said first-time jitters were at play for the Lady Tornadoes. A junior, Cameron led Alcoa offensively as the only batter to get multiple hits, going 2-for-2 at the plate.
“We didn’t get the outcome that we wanted, but we definitely established a name for ourselves,” Cameron said. “Next year, we’ve got to come out and be able to be up here and realize we can play with everybody.”
Sequatchie County got off to a strong start when Ella Edgmon led off the first inning with a single. Edgmon stole second and third before scoring on a groundout to put the Indians on the board, 1-0.
They doubled their lead in the third by scoring on an error before pulling the game out of Alcoa’s reach in the fifth inning. Ella Edgmon and Addy Edgmon got things started, with back-to-back singles before Peyton Longson stepped up to the plate. Longson hit the gap perfectly with a line drive to centerfield that scored two.
Jesyca Dennis followed that with another RBI double, extending the Indians’ lead to 5-0 with no outs. They added another two runs on a ground out and sacrifice fly.
After the game, Bailey reminded her team not to lose sight of what it had accomplished on its way to the state tournament.
“I just told them that I love them, and only one team leaves here with the win,” she said. “Today shouldn’t take away from what they’ve done this season. I’m really proud of them.”