Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press Soddy-Daisy coach Clifford Kirk signals during a game.
With the way his ace has been throwing this spring, Soddy-Daisy softball coach Clifford Kirk thought putting up an early run against Seymour in the Gold championship game of the 22nd Lady Trojan Invitational might put the Lady Eagles in a pinch. Or a squeeze, which is how the Lady Trojans got that run in.
They turned the rest over to University of Kentucky signee Kelsey Nunley, who no-hit the Lady Eagles and led Soddy-Daisy to a 7-0 victory Saturday night at the Soddy Lake Kids' Park.
Grace Academy went 0-3 in pool play, then won the Silver bracket. The Lady Golden Eagles beat Knoxville Halls 12-6 in the final.
Soddy-Daisy's Cassidy Hackney worked a walk to start the bottom of the first inning and was sacrificed to second. After Hackney stole third, Kirk decided to bunt with No. 3 batter Brittany Lanham, who dropped it squarely between the baseline at third and the pitching circle, enabling her to reach first and Hackney to score.
"The way Nunley has been throwing the ball, I wanted that 1-0 lead if possible," Kirk said. "I think it was unexpected. Then I thought we could work on other things after that."
Nunley (15-1) ended up with 13 strikeouts. Seymour's only baserunners were a hit batter with two out in the first and a walk with one out in the sixth.
"I think she only allowed four hits in the whole tournament," Kirk said. "She had one perfect game, and this was a no-hitter. Since she's our only senior, I think she wants to go out with a bang."
Three errors assisted the Lady Trojans when they scored twice in the third inning, and they added another run in the fourth. Savannah Moore's triple and doubles by Hannah Smith and Jessica Boles provided RBIs in the sixth.
"I've got some young kids and some of them have had to come through," said Kirk, whose team is now 22-2-1. "That means they've done their jobs like they're supposed to. I feel good about the way they're playing."
Grace's 3-0 run through the Silver bracket Saturday happened without head coach Tina Walker, who was at her sister's daughter's wedding. So who needs her?
"I need her," said Alan Walker, who along with fellow assistant John Parshall coached the team while Alan's wife was away. "I can't take all of this."
Grace got off to a good start in the Silver final, scoring twice in the top of the first inning. Reagan Schrader started things with one out with a ground-rule double, which turned out to be the only hit in the rally. Two walks and error aided the Lady Golden Eagles' cause.
They increased their lead to 3-0 in the top of the third on Bethany Cowart's triple and Kaitlyn Eldridge's sacrifice fly.
Halls rallied and took a 5-3 lead by the end of the fifth inning, but a four-run sixth enabled Grace (11-4) to recapture the lead. Schrader's two-run double highlighted a five-run seventh that put it away.
"We had taken a week off since we played," Alan Walker said. "It took us a while to get going. We finally started hitting and started making the plays. Everybody contributed."
He said he was particularly proud of the 14-10 semifinal victory over East Hamilton in which the Lady Golden Eagles rallied for 10 runs in their final at-bat. Their first single-elimination win was over Brentwood High.
Schrader, Cowart and Lexi Dean were each 3-for-5 in the championship game. Cowart also had a double, two RBIs and scored four times. Schrader had two RBIs and scored three runs, and Dean had a double, an RBI and scored twice.
Savannah Jeno was 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored. Tory Helton was the winning pitcher in relief.
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.