MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Grace Academy’s players tried a little introspection before Thursday’s play, and it seemed to work.
The Lady Golden Eagles shook off a one-run loss in 11 innings Wednesday night and bounced back with two victories at Starplex No. 4, reaching today’s losers-bracket final. Grace cruised past Unaka 10-0 in five innings and Marion County 5-2.
Grace (40-8-1) will play Cornersville today at 11 a.m. EDT. The winner then will take on Decatur County Riverside in the final at 6:30 p.m. Riverside edged Cornersville 5-4 on Thursday.
Marion County beat Houston County 5-3 in the early session.
Grace coach Tina Walker said when the team got back to the hotel the coaches let the players have a heart-to-heart talk among themselves to figure out what they needed to do moving forward.
“Mentally we weren’t in it in the game against Decatur County,” Walker said. “We made tons of mistakes. We didn’t wait on good pitches. We were not being disciplined.”
Lexie Dean and Jessie Parker hit run-scoring singles in the first inning against Houston County. Lacye Walker, who started the game with a double and ended up 3-for-3, pitched a two-hitter with one walk and 10 strikeouts.
Marion County got to Walker for seven hits. She had six strikeouts and one walk against the Lady Warriors and hit a two-RBI triple.
“Lacye has thrown a lot,” Coach Walker said of her daughter. “She’s getting tired, no doubt about it. We’ve got to hit.”
Marion County (36-10) got one-out singles in the first inning by Keli Bruning and Taylor Brown. Heather Richards and Brooke Baxter hit consecutive singles beginning the Lady Warriors’ third, and Brown walked and Morgan Henderson singled starting the sixth, when they finally broke through with a run.
Kacie McClendon’s one-out single loaded the bases in the sixth, and Kelsey Thomas hit a sacrifice fly. Bruning’s one-out single in the seventh drove in Marion’s other run.
“We got a couple of hits early on, but we never could get that third hit in there to make it happen,” Marion coach Chris Thomas said. “Lacye does a good job. She’s one of the best pitchers in the state.”
Marion graduates four seniors.
“This was a good group of girls,” Coach Thomas said. “They played as a team all year. We gained a bit of experience. Here, that can be a big factor.”
Kelsey Thomas had a double and two RBIs in the Lady Warriors’ first game and was the winning pitcher.
Henderson went 3-for-4 and Baxter went 2-for-3. Each drove in a run and scored one.
Grace’s Kaitlyn Eldridge was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored against the Lady Warriors.
Savannah Jeno’s fifth-inning three-run homer capped Grace’s scoring in its first game. Eldridge doubled in two in the third inning, then advanced to third on a flyout and made it 5-0 by soring on a wild pitch.
Bethany Cowart had a two-run single ahead of Jeno’s shot and was 2-for-2 with a double and run scored in the second game. Sierra Nunley was 2-for-3 and scored a run against Marion.
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.