Brook Womack's stolen base on the second pitch of Monday's District 6-AA high school softball game at East Hamilton was equally as important to Central's message as her single on the first pitch.
The Lady Purple Pounders were intent on being aggressive from the start, and they were throughout their 9-1 victory in a battle between the district's unbeatens.
The league game was the last for Central (26-9, 6-0), which secured the regular-season championship Monday and will be top-seeded for the district tournament in two weeks. Coach LeeAnne Shurette said the title was "one of many" goals the team has laid out this season.
Womack advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a passed ball to give the Lady Pounders an early lead. It was one of four runs they scored without benefit of an RBI.
East Hamilton's five errors occurred in the third, fourth and seventh, and Central scored four unearned runs in those innings.
"We're just trying to put pressure on people, whether it's stealing or running the bases, like first to third," Shurette said. "We try to take chances. I think it works more often than not for us."
Pitcher Shelby Willard limited the Lady Hurricanes to two hits through six innings and finished with a four-hitter with eight strikeouts.
"She hasn't thrown very much lately, but I thought she threw well today," Shurette said. "She kept them guessing."
East Hamilton's Nos. 2-6 batters were a combined 0-for-14 with two walks. With Central leading 3-1 and Lady Hurricanes on third and second with none out in the third, Willard retired the heart of the order in succession and stranded the runners.
"That was huge," East Hamilton coach Cara Stiles said. "We have to execute. There has to be some level of increased intensity when you're in those situations. We just did not have it."
Womack went 3-for-4 with a two-RBI double in the sixth. She added a second stolen base and scored three runs.
Jasmine Cobb was 2-for-3 with a run scored and Brooke Eller tripled in a run in the third and later scored. Central's other RBIs came on balls hit to center field in the fifth with Willard flying out near the fence and Chasidy Ainslie dropping in a single behind second base.
Amber Phillips hit a run-scoring double in the second and finished 2-for-3 for East Hamilton (17-13, 4-1), which could clinch the No. 2 seeding for the district tournament by beating Red Bank today. Shaliyah Geathers had the other two hits.
"I have confidence in my team," Stiles said. "They just didn't bring their 'A' game today. Our defense is shaky. We've got to work on that."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653.
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.