Chattanooga State’s four sports teams all are reigning region champions whose most recent season finales were in national tournaments. The nationally seventh-ranked baseball team and 10th-ranked softball team will be trying to stretch that streak this week in Gallatin, Tenn.
The baseball Tigers of coach Greg Dennis, who reached the Junior College World Series for the first time last spring, are seeded second behind fourth-ranked Walters State in the TCCAA/Region VII tournament at Volunteer State Community College. Beth Keylon-Randolph’s Lady Tigers are the top softball seeds and trying for the program’s 17th region title in 18 years and 16th national appearance in 17 seasons.
The baseball region champion must get past Georgia’s winner to get to the World Series, but the softball region winner goes directly to the nationals.
Both Chattanooga State spring teams have been ranked as high as No. 2 in NJCAA Division I this season.
“We have assembled a group of coaches who know how to get 100 percent out of each one of their athletes, and it has translated into great results,” said athletic director Steve Jaecks, also a softball assistant coach. “It happened in basketball this year, and we look forward to going back to the region tournaments in baseball and softball.”
The baseball Tigers open at 11 a.m. EDT Monday against the victor in Sunday’s 1 p.m. game between seventh seed Motlow State and 10th seed Southwest Tennessee. The 2 p.m. game Monday pits sixth-seeded Cleveland State against third seed Volunteer State, followed by Walters against the Dyersburg State/Roane State winner from Sunday at 4.
Cleveland State’s Cougars won six of their last seven league games, including two of three against Vol State to end the regular season.
“We have been playing pretty solid baseball the last three weeks of the season, and we hope to carry that over. Momentum is a big thing at tournament time,” Cougars coach and AD Mike Policastro said. “We need to throw strikes, execute and continue to get timely hits.”
Policastro acknowledged that Walters’ Senators and the Tigers had earned favorites status but said “there are several teams that could get hot at the right time and make a run, and I believe we are one of those teams.”
Chattanooga State will begin softball play Monday at 1 p.m. EDT against the winner of Sunday’s game between eighth-seeded Jackson State and ninth seed Roane. Sixth-seeded Cleveland State is scheduled to play third seed Vol State at 3 EDT on Monday, followed by second-seeded Motlow against Sunday’s survivor between seventh seed Southwest Tennessee and Dyersburg State.
“Our coaches will have their teams ready to go,” Jaecks said. “Both of them do a great job of taking one game at a time. They don’t look past anybody. In softball, for instance, you always look at the top four or five teams, but you don’t want to look past that first round. That will be Jackson or Roane, and both are good-hitting teams this year.”
Keylon-Randolph agreed with that, adding that both potential first foes “play pretty good defense” as well.
“We’re going to have to play to win every game,” she said.
Two softball losers-bracket games are scheduled Monday evening, when Columbia State will play Jackson State in baseball’s final opening matchup.
Tickets cost $7 per day or $4 for community college, high school or elementary students and are good for both tournaments. The softball event is set to end Wednesday; the baseball champion could be determined Thursday or Friday.