Central pitcher Shelby Willard, No. 44, throws against a Sequatchie County hitter during Saturday's game. Staff photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press
But the Lady Purple Pounders didn’t go crazy. They hugged and high-fived after beating Sequatchie County 9-3 in their Class AA softball state sectional game Saturday, but there were no gloves tossed high in the air, no dogpile in the outfield, no screams that echoed to Wolftever Bridge.
The players all had smiles, but it was a subdued celebration for their second straight trip to the Spring Fling beginning Tuesday in Murfreesboro.
Central took advantage of six errors and scored early and often to help Shelby Willard record her 12th pitching win of the season despite time off with an injury.
“I wish we didn’t have to wait to play,” Central coach LeeAnn Shurette said. “I want to keep playing right now.”
Instead, the Lady Pounders were treated to hot dogs, hamburgers and ice-cold Cokes behind their dugout after the game.
Willard escaped a two-out, two-on situation in the opening frame of the win-or-go-home game. Then her teammates gave her a big lead in the bottom of the inning.
Central leadoff hitter Brook Womack reached on an error. She slid into second when Raney Jackson beat the throw to first on a bunt. Then Hannah Powell launched the first pitch of her at-bat well over the left-field fence for a 3-0 lead.
“We got our confidence up, everybody was cheering and we wanted to go right at them,” Powell said. “I was up there, relaxed, thinking I’m not going to kill it but I’m not going to bunt.
“The pitch was inside and I did hit it pretty far.”
The first-inning outburst provided Central with the momentum and Willard with a cushion.
“I have a lot of faith in my teammates and they always seem to get runs, so it’s not as much stress on me when I don’t have my best stuff,” Willard said. “That inning showed that they got my back.”
Central (28-12) scored three runs again in the bottom of the second, including a two-run double from Chasidy Ainslie. The Lady Pounders added two in the third and one in the fourth.
The Lady Indians (21-7) received RBIs from Chastity Carlton and Emily Dagnan in the third inning and an RBI double from Meredith Mitchell in the fourth.
Those runs weren’t enough to extend their season.
“It’s really the worst game we’ve played all year, and definitely the worst defensive game we’ve played all season,” Sequatchie County coach Courtney Stewart said. “But this one game doesn’t define our season.
“We didn’t even make it this far last year.”
Central is going back to the state tournament. Win there, and the celebration could be spectacular.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...