MURFREESBORO, Tenn.—Beech was one out away Thursday from heading to the losers bracket in the TSSAA Class AAA softball tournament. Instead, the Lady Buccaneers are one victory away from winning the championship.
Heather Montgomery’s walk-off, bases-loaded double lifted the Lady Bucs past Soddy-Daisy 2-1 in the winners-bracket final at Starplex No. 1.
Soddy-Daisy (40-8) will play Riverdale (47-4), ranked No. 10 in the NFCA/USA Today Top 25, in the losers-bracket final at 11 a.m. EDT. The winner will face Beech (41-11-2) in the final at 7:30 p.m.
With runners at third and second and none out in the bottom of the seventh, Beech No. 7 batter Taylor Hayden came to bat. Soddy-Daisy coach Clifford Kirk said he thought the Lady Bucs might squeeze bunt. The Beech coaches said they thought Kirk was thinking they might squeeze. Instead Hayden was hit by a pitch that would’ve been ball four, and that loaded the bases.
Pitcher Kelsey Nunley looked like she might work out of trouble after back-to-back strikeouts, but then up came the Lady Bucs’ leadoff batter.
“We wanted to get back to the top,” Beech coach David Woods said. “There’s an old clause that says let your players make plays. She had struck out twice, but she singled leading off the game. Heather’s a seasoned player.”
Winning pitcher Alex Banks allowed five hits and no walks. Kali Henderson’s two-out single in the sixth had put the Lady Trojans ahead.
Nunley had a two-hitter going to the seventh. She walked two and struck out nine.
“Should’ve won,” Kirk said of his pitcher’s fate.
The victory was Beech’s second over Soddy-Daisy this season. The Lady Bucs won 3-2 on April 23 in the Gold final of Soddy-Daisy’s Lady Trojan Invitational.
• Central 5, Bledsoe County 2: At Starplex No. 2, Sara Walker had an RBI single in the first inning and a two-run double in the fifth in the Lady Pounders’ first Class AA losers-bracket game Thursday.
Brook Womack went 3-for-4 and scored her third run of the game on an error in the sixth after she had tripled with two out.
Catcher Hannah Powell, who was 2-for-3 with a double, drove in a run with a single in the fifth but received a contusion on her lower leg on the play and left the game. She was able to come back and catch the next game.
Shelby Willard pitched a three-hitter but walked five. She struck out six.
The Lady Warriors’ Kayla Reagan walked and scored on Victoria Roberson’s double in the sixth and Emilee Smith added an RBI single. Bledsoe, in its first state tournament, ends its season 28-13, winning one game after a big loss to Gibbs in its opener.
“It’s been wonderful,” Bledsoe coach Janice Ritchie said. “The girls fought through everything past the first game. We’re a young team. Hopefully we can use this and build on it.”
• Lexington 7, Central 1: Niya Sparks’ three-run homer in the first inning was the beginning of the end for Central (30-14).
The Lady Pounders’ run came in the second inning. Losing pitcher Chasidy Ainslie walked, Ciera Belcher singled and winning pitcher Shelese Arnold threw two wild pitches.
“We got here, but I felt like our bats didn’t come with us,” Central coach LeeAnne Shurette said. “We were so hot with them all year long.”
Belcher and Womack each finished 2-for-3, Womack with a double. Walker singled in her final at-bat and is Central’s only senior.
“We look at everything as a learning experience,” Shurette said. “I thought we had the team to do it, but it’s whoever has it that given day.”
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.