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Counting them down: Top 5 2012 sports stories

Friday, January 18, 2013

(Photo)
Amy Beth McGowan was the first member of the Eaglettes to compete in the TSSAA state golf tournament.
(T-G File Photo by Gary Johnson) [Order this photo]
A few weeks ago, we brought you the first part of a two-part story highlighting the top sports headlines from 2012. Here are the final five headlines that made the list:

5. Shelbyville softball qualifies for region

The Shelbyville Central softball team made history in 2012, making the first trip in school history to the region tournament with a second-place finish in District 8-AAA.

The Eaglettes claimed the berth in the region with a 7-3 win over Columbia in the district tournament last spring.

Shelbyville took a 3-0 lead by scoring a run in each of the first three innings. But Columbia was able to knot the game at three runs apiece by the end of the fifth inning.

Shelbyville, however, didn't retreat. Instead, the Eaglettes answered with a 4-spot, followed by a pair of shutout innings to claim the win over the Lady Lions.

The Eaglettes went on to face top-seeded Lincoln County in the district championship, but were dealt a 4-0 loss in the title game.

Despite the loss, Shelbyville was still alive in postseason play.

But as they say, all good things must come to an end. Shelbyville's season came to an end with a 9-3 loss to Riverdale in the region.

The team was led by seniors Haylie Spence, Lorrie Rittenberry, Lauren Warren and Aleck James.

The Eaglettes closed the season with a 15-16 overall record.

4. Area golfers find success

Saying area high school golfers had a successful season last year might be a bit of an understatement. For the first time in school history, Shelbyville Central was able to send an individual member of the Eaglettes golf squad to participate in the TSSAA state tournament. Amy Beth McGowan became the first Eaglette in school history to participate in the state competition, but what made her apperance more impressive was the fact she had to play the entire season through a shoulder injury to qualify.

In addition to McGowan's appearance, the Cascade Champion golf team was able to repeat as region champions and qualify for the second year in a row for the state championship.

McGowan, though, had to battle through several setbacks to continue competing.

"It wasn't easy and I played the entire season in pain. My shoulder would swell and I would ice it down after I played," McGowan said following her competition in the state tournament.

"I went to the doctor two days before the season started and he said I was about 75 percent but I was determined to tough it out and do the best I could despite my injury."

She injured her shoulder swinging a golf club at the end of the school last year and went through physical therapy all summer.

"I didn't get to play any golf all summer and started playing again a week before our season started," McGowan said. "I had set a goal to make the state tournament my freshman year and dealing with this injury just motivated me even more to achieve my goal. Every time I went to therapy all I thought about was being able to play."

Throughout the season she was one of the top girls in the district but a disappointing round in the district tournament left her in third place.

In the region tournament, she finished in a three-way tie for fourth and final spot to qualify for the state tournament.

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Ben Morgan won a decisive match at the No. 5 singles and the eventual match winner in the No. 2 seeded doubles match with partner Carlos Delgado to help Shelbyville claim the district title.
(T-G File Photo by Chris Siers) [Order this photo]
"On our first playoff hole we all three had a double bogey on a par-five. I think our nerves really got to us. The next hole was a par-three and the first two were about 50 yards off the green with their tee shots. I knew if I could hit the green I might have a chance to win the hole. Thankfully my shot landed about five feet from the pin. That's the closest I've ever been to the pin on a par three. I birdied the hole and advanced to the state. It's a moment I'll never forget," she said.

McGowan went on to post a 191 in the state tournament by posting a 95 in her first round and a 96 in her final round.

The Champs, however, were able to qualify as a team for the second year in a row by edging out a win in the region tournament.

Cascade blazed through the regular season and remained undefeated, even through the district and region tournaments.

In all, the Champs were able to place sixth in the A/AA state competition.

Tanner Burks led the Champs in the two-day competition with a collective 168, followed closely by Bryce Clinton's 169. Senior Jake Pimental finished a stroke back with 170, while Chad Gordon and Lucas Dunnavant rounded out the scoring for Cascade with a 172 and 186.

"I'm proud of the kids. To come back to the state tournament two years in a row -- I couldn't ask for anything more than that. I have great kids on the golf course and in the classroom. As a coach, I couldn't ask for anything more than that," said Cascade coach Chad Spencer.

Cascade looks to be on trek for another strong season in 2013, graduating just two seniors in Pimental and Dunnavant.

"Lucas has been playing since he was in eighth grade. He battled through an injury in the last two days. That shows what type of kid he is to play through it with that injury.

"Jake played great all year from shooting 69 in the Murfreesboro Open to a 75 in the region tournament. Both of them improved 10 shots today, which is pretty good. I hate to see them go. It's going to be hard to start golf season without them because they've been such a big part of our success for several seasons," Spencer said.

3. Shelbyville soccer stuns Columbia, wins district

The Shelbyville Central girls soccer team peaked at the right time last season, clinching the District 8-AAA championship with a stunning 2-1 win over top-seeded Columbia.

The win not only earned the Eaglettes the hardware for clinching the district, but a home berth in the region tournament.

It was a rough start for the Eaglettes, going 1-5 through the first six games against a buzzsaw of a schedule.

But the young team was able to persevere and peak at the right time to earn the win.

In the district championship game, Columbia took an early lead with a score at the 24:37 mark of the first half.

Shelbyville, however, was able to make a few adjustments that proved invaluable in claiming the victory.

"The Eaglettes saw the tying and go ahead scores by sophomores Ashlee Sutton and Alexis Larion.

It's really been fun to watch this team improve and grow up as the season progressed and I think it's fair to say that they are playing better right now than they have all season," said Eaglette coach Neal Gordon.

While Shelbyville held the momentum heading to the region, a bit of unfortunate luck struck the Eaglettes in the region game against Blackman where they were dealt a tough, 1-0 loss to end the season.

Blackman jumped ahead on a penalty kick with about 14 minutes left in the first half after the Eaglettes were called for a penalty in the box following a cornerkick.

Shelbyville closed the season with a 9-9-4 record.

2. Shelbyville tennis

While the Shelbyville Central Eaglettes soccer team earned a stunning win over top-seeded Columbia in their district tournament last fall, the Shelbyville Central boys tennis team earned their stunning win over the Lions in the District 8-AAA last spring.

The Eagles knocked off the No. 1 seeded Lions to earn a trip and earned a trip to the region in the process.

Shelbyville took an early lead in the match when No. 4 seed Chris Castelow picked up a solid 8-3 win over his opponent. But the momentum was short-lived when Columbia took a win at the No. 1 seed where Zack Thompson was able to edge out an 8-5 win over Shelbyville's Tyler Merlo.

Shelbyville wasn't done, though.

Jonathan Smotherman added an 8-5 victory at the No. 3 seed in the match, but again Columbia knotted the team scores at two matches apiece with a win at the No. 2 singles match.

The outcome of the match came down to Ben Morgan at the No. 5 seeded match. Morgan was able to break his opponents serve at 8-7 to win the match and give the Eagles a slight edge heading to doubles.

But for the third time, Columbia tied it up with a win at the No. 1 seeded doubles match, knocking off the Eagles 8-4.

Shelbyville, however, earned the district title with an 8-4 victory at the hands of doubles duo Carlos Delgado and Morgan.

"These boys played as a team, and it was championship play the entire time. They had to take it from the Lions, and they did," Shelbyville coach Doyle Hutton said following the win," said coach Doyle Hutton.

(Photo)
The heart of the Champion order last year was comprised of the senior class who built an impressive resume throughout their four years at Cascade.
(T-G File Photo by Chris Siers) [Order this photo]
While Shelbyville was able to inch past Columbia in the district, their quest for gold came to a halt in the region with a 4-0 loss to Oakland.

1. Cascade baseball

Baseball in Middle Tennessee is some of the best around at every level, every division and classification.

The Cascade Champions exemplified that last year, forging through the season and finishing third among all 1A teams in the state, before falling to eventual state champion, Decatur County-Riverside.

The Champs got their first taste of postseason glory with a 10-5 win over rival Eagleville, who consequently finished second in the state tournament, to clinch the District 9-A championship.

In all, the Eagles and the Champs met six times, and split 3-3 in their meetings.

Their last meeting of the season came in the region championship game where Cascade struggled to put the bat on the ball and suffered a stinging 15-2 loss in their final meeting of the season.

Even though the Champs took one on the chin in the region, Cascade rallied with a big win over Columbia Academy in the sub-state match up that saw senior Jared Carkuff toss a gem.

The Champs piled on an impressive 9-0 win, but it was Carkuff's pitching that set the game apart.

He retired nine consecutive batters to start the game while the Cascade offense jumped out in front with a 3-0 lead.

But them, rains settled in and forced the game to be relocated to Chapel Hill. While Carkuff gave up a few hits in the ensuing inning, he was able to settle in before fellow senior Carson Tapley closed it out and gave the Champs a ticket to the state tournament.

In their debut in the state tournament, Cascade struggled with two-out hits and suffered a 3-1 loss to South Pittsburg.

While down, the Champs weren't out by any means.

With the loss, the Champs were in the consolation bracket, which made every game a must win.

Cascade responded by knocking off North Greene with a 5-0 win, setting up a rematch against South Pittsburg.

In the rematch, the Champs got their payback with a 4-1 win over the Pirates, knocking them from the tournament, and allowing Cascade to inch one step closer to the state title.

But the win over the Pirates set up a showdown against Decatur County-Riverside, where Cascade would have had to win twice in order to earn a trip to the state title to face none other than archrival Eagleville.

Cascade took the first step with a 13-3 win in game one, but couldn't close out the series and suffered an 8-3 loss, ending the Champs' season. While a few underclassmen represented roles in the starting lineup, it was a dominating senior class that helped be the anchor for the team's successes over the past few years.

"I just can't say enough about this senior class. I think they went 111-39-2 and 5-4 in the state tournament and another Sub-State appearance.

"To me by far that's the best four-year career of any in Cascade history and that's a tribute to them and the type of kids they are," said Cascade coach Brandon Bassham following the Champs' final game last season.

-- This story includes information from original reports by Chris Siers and Gary Johnson.