KNOXVILLE — Maryville coach Nick Payne knew the hits would be scarce in Tuesday night’s Region 2-AAA semifinal game against Knoxville Halls.

The Lady Rebels played well enough defensively to advance to sub-state, but they couldn’t generate enough at the plate en route to a 1-0 season-ending loss at Halls.

“We had runners in scoring position several innings, we just couldn’t get anything hard,” Payne said. “That’s the great thing about the game — it’s so unpredictable. We were trying so hard not to let certain players beat us.”

Halls’ lone run came off a solo homer by Leyna Gould in the bottom of the fourth. The Red Devils (28-6) finished with five hits while Maryville had two. Halls will play Farragut on Wednesday in the region championship.

Brianna Blair earned the win, striking out five while pitching a complete game. A freshman, Brooke Bentz allowed four hits while striking out one over four innings for Maryville (22-11).

“They are just as good at hitting as they are pitching, and Brooke did a great job,” Payne said. “I think we just missed a pitch up, and the girl got a good bat on it.”

Maryville had a couple opportunities to even the score — none better than when Kasey Monday doubled on a line drive to left field in the top of the sixth. The Lady Rebels just couldn’t bring her home.

Maryville has come a long way from early in the season, when the team was capable of making double-digit errors on a given day.

“We struggled early — defensively,” Payne said. “We looked bad. “It’s the worst defense I’ve ever been associated with, and I was quick to tell them that. They bought in. They knew what it was going to take and the hard work.”

The Lady Rebels turned their season around, even notching a win over the eventual District 4-AAA champion Farragut during the regular season. Their 9-8 victory over Heritage last week in the district tournament sealed a spot in the region tourney.

The four seniors — Monday, Caroline Moore, Katie Thompson and Macie Powell — joined the squad the same year Payne did as an assistant coach. Payne took over the program this season and said those upperclassmen are special to him.

“They built such a great foundation this year,” Payne said. “Everything we do from here on out is going to be credited to their leadership and their work ethic and drive to want more.”

Follow @TaylorVortherms on Twitter for more from sports reporter Taylor Vortherms.

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