After an abrupt coaching change more than halfway into the high school softball regular season, Beech’s Lady Buccaneers could’ve gone either of two directions. Considering what they did over the weekend in the 21st Lady Trojan Invitational, it seems clear which way they chose to go.
Beech held on and beat host Soddy-Daisy 3-2 in the Gold-bracket final Saturday at the Soddy Lake Kids’ Park.
Karns defeated Pigeon Forge 5-1 in the Silver final.
The Lady Bucs’ three new coaches aren’t new to the program. Wayne Smith, who coached them as recently as last year, had not seen a Beech softball game this season until the one he coached in Thursday. That 12-0 victory over Gallatin was the only game under the returning regime before the tournament.
“We got better as the weekend went on,” Smith said. “When there’s a change like this, you can either fold or step it up.”
Coach David Woods, an assistant principal, said principal Frank Cardwell made the decision to relieve first-year coach Jason Cary and his staff of their duties because of some issues that had arisen. Coach and athletic director Kristi Utley was unable to make the trip.
“The effort and attitude of the players has been great,” Woods said. “They’ve played their hearts out. I don’t know if it’s because of the situation or if they did it for themselves.”
Beech (26-6-2) went ahead of the Lady Trojans in the top of the third inning when winning pitcher Alex Banks (21-5) hit a two-out, two-run double. A walk and three errors led to the Lady Bucs’ run in the sixth.
Soddy-Daisy (28-6) got within 2-1 in the third when Cassidy Hackney beat out an infield single, moved to third on Alex Everett’s double and scored on Kali Henderson’s groundout.
Hackney, who was 3-for-4, scored on an error in the seventh. The Lady Trojans had runners on the corners when the game ended.
Of the 10 stranded by Soddy-Daisy, five were at third base, including Savannah Moore three times. Taylor Hayden’s backhand play at second base, shortstop Jule Kranz’ field and throw after a carom off a teammate and a diving catch in left by Grace Woodis were all with Lady Trojans on third.
“We got some in scoring position and didn’t get them in,” Soddy-Daisy coach Clifford Kirk said. “Part of that was our fault. Part of it was good plays on their part. We didn’t execute. There’s certain things we could’ve done that would’ve gotten us back in the game.”
Losing pitcher Tori Denayer (9-3) pitched a two-hitter in her five-plus innings of work, but two of the three she walked scored, as did the batter she hit.
“I don’t think it was Tori’s fault,” said Kirk, who brought in the pitcher of the two previous games, Kelsey Nunley, with two on and one out in the fifth. “We did some bad things behind her. I thought she threw pretty well.”
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.