Ooltewah softball coach Norma Nelson may be wondering who the players were wearing Lady Owls uniforms Saturday and what did they do with her team?
The surprise was a pleasant one for Nelson, whose team was the only one unblemished in the 23rd Lady Owls Choo Choo Classic high school tournament, defeating Coffee County 4-0 in six innings in the Gold final at The Summit of Softball Complex.
East Hamilton earned the first trophy in the second-year program’s existence by beating Arts & Sciences 6-1 in four innings in the Silver final.
Ooltewah entered the competition with an 11-9 record, then defeated Red Bank and Madison (Ala.) Academy in pool play to get in the Gold bracket. Then the Lady Owls really went to work.
They beat Soddy-Daisy, which handed them their first District 5-AAA loss of the season — they play again Tuesday at Ooltewah — then defeated Walker Valley. The Lady Mustangs handed them their two other district losses this season.
The victory over Coffee County was payback for last year’s 10-0 Region 3 semifinal at Manchester that ended Ooltewah’s season.
“We did everything we were supposed do today,” Nelson said. “We had a little revenge on our minds. The last time we played Coffee County, they trounced us. Soddy-Daisy has beaten us often lately, and we’ve lost to Walker Valley two times this year. I’m really proud of the way the kids played.”
Jessica Morgan sparked the Lady Owls from the top of the order in the final, twice singling and scoring on singles by Katelyn Bowen. They had a squeeze not work out with runners at third and second with none out in the fourth, but scored later in the inning on a throwing error.
Taylor Baird was the winning pitcher in Ooltewah’s last four games. She had a three-hitter with no walks and six strikeouts in the final.
“She did a great job not getting the ball up, and they chased some balls,” Nelson said. “When her curveball is working, she can be pretty effective.”
East Hamilton (6-10) ended up in the Silver bracket after losing its two pool games, then beat Bradley Central and Davidson Academy to get to the final.
“I think we just played as a team,” coach Holly Hamilton said. “Everybody stepped up at different times.
“We are a streaky hitting team. Hopefully we can be more consistent as the season goes on.”
After narrowly missing getting an extra-base hit down the right-field line, Allie Payne homered down the left-field line in the same at-bat to start a five-run fourth inning. Rachel Gamble doubled in the inning, and Kelsey Payne’s double and Maria Walshe’s infield hit drove in runs.
Shaliyah Geathers started the game with a triple and later walked, scoring both times. Winning pitcher Abby Miller allowed four hits and no walks.
Resnick Billen’s single in the bottom of the fourth drove in the Lady Patriots’ run.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.