CHURCH HILL - Volunteer showed a flair for the dramatic, but Science Hill showed the heart of a champion Friday.
The Lady Falcons rallied from a 5-0 deficit to take the lead with six runs in the top of the sixth inning, but the Lady Hilltoppers came up with six of their own in the bottom half of the frame to claim the District 1-AAA softball championship with an 11-6 win.
What had been a pitcher's duel turned into an offensive slugfest during the wild sixth inning. Both teams batted around, combining for 12 runs on eight hits.
Science Hill (31-10) entered the frame with a five-run advantage, but Volunteer's slap hitting, a few well-placed bunts and sheer speed finally paid dividends.
"They executed small ball to perfection," Science Hill coach Bob Dempsey said. "We made one bad play all inning.
"We've defended that well, but they just hit it where we couldn't get it."
After sailing smoothly through the first five frames, Science Hill ace Ashleigh Jackson faced eight batters in the sixth and retired only one.
Dempsey brought in Alyssa Shoun, who promptly walked in the tying run and allowed a run-scoring hit to Chanoa Bledsoe that put the Lady Falcons (20-17) in the lead.
But the Lady Hilltoppers are a veteran squad, and Jackson, the tournament MVP, said they gathered together in the middle of the inning to regain their focus.
"We knew we didn't want this game to turn around in one inning," Jackson said. "We always have that one inning that we'd like to eliminate from our game - we just did what we needed to do."
Jackson and Summer Galloway both came through with two-run doubles to highlight Science Hill's six-run outburst, which held up to earn the Lady 'Toppers a home game against Morristown West on Monday in the first round of the Region 1-AAA tournament.
Dempsey was pleased to see his team respond so well after going through such an emotional roller coaster.
"I'm very proud of them," he said. "They could have hung their heads and gone to Game 2."
Shoun (11-2) blew the save opportunity, but she held on to earn the win for Science Hill thanks to a 1-2-3 seventh inning. She gave up a hit and struck out two batters in 1 2-3 innings of work.
Jackson led Science Hill with three RBIs and scored a pair of runs while Ellyn Sapp was 3-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI. Brittney Fisher had two doubles and scored twice for the Lady 'Toppers while Galloway had two RBIs and scored twice.
Fisher, Shoun and Mary Nell Connor joined Jackson on the all-tournament team.
The Lady Falcons will have to hit the road in the first round of the regional, heading to Cherokee on Monday at 6 p.m.
Volunteer coach Jackie Strickler said it's great to be in the regional, but his team is not done playing softball.
"We're happy to be where we're at, but we have some unfinished business," Strickler said. "I'm just as proud of this group being second place as I am of any first-place team I've had."
Bledsoe finished 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored while Rebekah Hillman and Lauren Kirk each added RBI singles.
Freshman Tatum Spears pitched well but took the loss for Volunteer, which made do without their ace Paige Copas. Copas had thrown 31 innings this week, and Strickler opted not to make her throw for a fifth straight day.
Copas made the all-tournament team along with teammates Hillman and Tasha Dean.
Danielle Zimmerman and Chelley Christian of Dobyns-Bennett and Daniel Boone's Alexis Tipton rounded out the squad.