Central pitcher Shelby Willard limited Ooltewah to one good scoring opportunity, which went by the wayside, in Thursday’s high school softball game at Central. The Lady Purple Pounders didn’t have many more chances, but they did cash one in.
Raney Jackson’s two-out single in the fifth inning drove in Chasidy Ainslie and lifted Central past the Lady Owls 1-0.
Willard retired the first 11 she faced and struck out the first five on the way to 11 strikeouts. With two out in the fourth, Katelyn Bowen and Abby Daniels lined back-to-back singles to left field, and then a throwing error loaded the bases. After Willard induced a groundout to end the threat, the only other runner she allowed was Kelsey Chernak with a one-out single to center in the sixth.
Ooltewah coach Norma Nelson said she was partly to blame for not having her batters ready for what they were about to see. The Lady Owls were coming off an 18-hit performance, having won their opener 10-3 over Bradley Central.
“We crushed the ball Tuesday,” Nelson said. “The big difference was this was probably 20 miles an hour faster, plus it moved. We didn’t adjust like I wish we would’ve. We’re going to have to.”
Jackson came close to scoring in the first inning after she and Hannah Powell hit consecutive one-out singles. Jackson advanced to third on Powell’s hit but got caught in a rundown off Willard’s grounder to third and ended up getting tagged out heading home.
Central (2-1) also got Brook Womack as far as third base after her leadoff double in the third. Ainslie was on third after singling and advancing on two groundouts when Jackson’s hard grounder tipped off the end of diving third baseman Jessica Morgan’s glove.
“We think if we can get one run we can win,” Central coach LeeAnne Shurette said of having Willard in the pitching circle. “We really have a great defense, too.”
The Lady Pounders had at least one hit in each of the six innings they batted and struck out four times against Taylor Baird.
“They’re working,” Shurette said. “They’re trying to do the things we ask them to do at the plate. I think our bats are going to get there.”
Neither pitcher gave up a walk. Ooltewah had no errors.
“They hit the ball,” Nelson said. “They put the ball in play. Our kids played good defense.”
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.