ATHENS, Tenn. — A long hit in the first inning and a short one in the third led to runs that offset Taylor Baird’s one costly pitch Saturday, and Ooltewah defeated Walker Valley 2-1 in a winners-bracket semifinal in the District 5-AAA high school softball tournament at McMinn County.
Soddy-Daisy cruised past McMinn 10-1 in the other semifinal. The Lady Trojans (34-6) will play Ooltewah (27-11) in Monday’s winners-bracket final at 7 p.m.
McMinn County later bounced back and defeated Bradley Central 12-3, but Walker Valley was unable to regroup and lost 8-6 to Rhea County, ending the Lady Mustangs’ season at 23-11.
“It wasn’t our day,” Walker Valley coach Lauren Limburg said. “I don’t think it was any one thing. It was just a bad day, and it came at the wrong time.”
The day’s action began with Bradley Central beating Cleveland 8-6 in eight innings. Rhea County (14-16) will play McMinn County at Monday in a rematch of a first-round game the Lady Cherokees won 5-3.
Despite getting four hits in the first inning, the Lady Owls managed only one run — on Katelyn Bowman’s shot over the left-field fence. A baserunning miscue occurred before the homer, and right fielder Leslie Still made a diving catch with two aboard to cut short the rally.
Jessica Morgan started Ooltewah’s third inning with a bunt single. She stole second, took third on a passed ball and scored when Bowen grounded out.
Ooltewah’s other six hits off Sidney Hooper were singles to the outfield. Five went up the middle.
“Sidney does a good job moving the ball inside and outside,” Ooltewah coach Norma Nelson said. “The ones we hit up the middle were probably outside, but we couldn’t wait that long.”
The Lady Mustangs’ Rachel Percy drove a pitch over the fence in right-center with two out in the fifth. The only other balls allowed to the outfield by Baird, who had two strikeouts, were Baylee Boen’s two-out single in the third and Hooper’s one-out single in the sixth.
“Taylor has kind of been the type, when the going gets tough, that’s when she gets going,” Nelson said. “She dug down deep and did a great job. She’s a competitor. They have some hitters that scare me. Their No. 9 batter hit the home run.”
Hooper struck out seven. Neither pitcher gave up an walk.
Ashley Cheney sparked Soddy-Daisy’s offense by going 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs. Mariam Wood was 2-for-4 with an RBI and scored three runs.
Alyssa King’s single in the fifth off winning pitcher Tori Denayer drove in the Lady Cherokees’ run.
Rhea County had a four-run first inning on the way to an 8-2 lead, then managed to hold off the Lady Mustangs. Winning pitcher Hanna Manley went six innings and Shelby Kincannon came on and got the save.
“We hit the ball really well,” Rhea County coach Cara Stiles said. “Luckily we had enough to maintain.”
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.