LFO shortstop Taylor Phillips may have heard of Derek Jeter, but Phillips was still just a baby when the former New York Yankees great made his iconic "flip play" against Oakland in Game 3 of the American League Divisional Series.
With his team clinging to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh, Jeter watched as Oakland hitter Terrance Long hit a ball down the right-field line and into the corner. Right fielder Shane Spencer over threw the cut-off man at first and the ball went bouncing toward home plate and it looked as if Oakland base runner Jeremy Giambi would easily score all the way from first on the play.
But Jeter, sprinting from his shortstop position, scooped up the ball on a dead run and flipped it sideways to catcher Jorge Posoda, who tagged the back of Giambi's leg a split second before he touched home plate with the tying run.
New York won the game 1-0 and ultimately advanced to the World Series.
Tuesday night, Phillips channeled Jeter to make her own unbelievable, heads-up defensive play when her team needed it the most.
With the Lady Warriors leading Haralson County 1-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning of Game 2 of their best-of-three Region 6-AAA first round series, the Lady Rebels had the potential tying run on first base in Gracie McElroy when Kyncade Pace layed a sacrifice bunt down the third base line.
LFO third baseman Karson Bradford charged the ball and fired to second baseman Keelie Mauk, who was covering the bag at first for the out. However, with Phillips covering second base, third base was temporarily left unoccupied as McElroy attempted to seize the moment and take the extra base.
Phillips, however, had other plans.
Sprinting after McElroy in an attempt to beat her to the bag, Phillips made a running catch of a bullet from Mauk a few feet in front of the base. She twisted her body, lunged and applied the tag on a sliding McElroy just inches before McElroy's foot touched the bag to complete the highlight-worthy 5-4-6 double play.
The play ended what turned out to be the final scoring threat for Haralson County as LFO advanced to the region semifinals with a 5-0, 3-0 sweep. More importantly, the sweep secured a spot for the Red-and-White in the Class AAA state tournament for the second straight season.
"I looked up, saw that no one was (at third base) and I knew I had to get there," Phillips said. "When the game is on the line, you have to do whatever it takes."
"Heck of a play," LFO head coach Tony Ellis added. "We had a breakdown in our coverage on that play and Taylor wasn't supposed to be covering third. But she saw what happened, made a move and it worked out. We got a little lucky there, I guess, but I'm glad it happened."
The scoring chance by the Lady Rebels in that inning was one of the few chances they had in the entire doubleheader as senior Kourtney Morrison was simply masterful in the circle. She allowed just three hits and two walks in Game 1 and scattered five hits in the nightcap, while striking out seven in each game.
"She pitched really well tonight and she's pitched really well all year," Ellis added. "She had a couple of moments last week or so where she struggled a little, but tonight she was on. I was very proud of her."
Morrison staked her team to a 2-0 lead in the first inning of Game 1 with a two-run double and Bradford picked up an RBI-single in the third. Bradford struck again in the fifth, this time with a two-run double to cap the scoring.
Then in Game 2, with LFO playing as the visiting team, Morrison singled in Phillips to give the Lady Warriors a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Lyndsey Teague's sacrifice fly in the sixth plated Phillips, who doubled to lead off the inning, and a shallow, bloop single to center by Shaniyah Jones in the seventh brought in pinch runner Taylor Bono with an insurance run.
Jones went 2-for-2 in Game 2.
LFO (18-10) will now await the winner of the Ringgold-Bremen series, which will wrap up with Game 3 on Wednesday in Bremen. The best-of-three semifinal round will begin with a doubleheader at Chip Liner Field this Saturday, although a start time has yet to be determined.
Phillips said clinching a spot at state "was a lot of relief".
"Of course, we still want to win the region title, but there was so much pressure coming into today's games," she explained. "Now (the pressure) is off our backs and we can just go out and try and win (the region title)."
"It's probably more pressure on me than anybody," Ellis continued. "I think we've had a pretty good year, but if we didn't win this series, our year was over. I would have really hated it for our seniors if we didn't get past this round, but a lot of pressure is off of us now. Whatever happens from here, we're assured of being in the state playoffs and I like our chances."