What Arts & Sciences' Kiara Suttles did offensively in the fifth inning of Thursday's District 5-A high school softball game against Silverdale Baptist Academy made what she did defensively in the seventh inning momentous.
Her three-run homer and pickoff from behind the plate proved to be decisive plays when the Lady Patriots defeated the Lady Seahawks 5-4 at Silverdale.
CSAS (4-5) wanted to bounce back from losing its district opener to defending champion Grace Academy and got going quickly with a run each in the first and third innings.
Victoria Blanton walked starting the fifth, and then Liana Rodrigues bunted for a hit. After a sacrifice bunt, Suttles hit a high drive over the fence in right-center. With Brianna Taylor cruising along with a three-hit shutout, the Lady Patriots appeared to be in great position.
The walk Taylor allowed to Sloane Woodard starting the bottom of the sixth was her first, and Woodard ended up scoring on an error. In the seventh, two walks and a hit batter created more trouble for Taylor, who this time gave up an infield single to Woodard that made it 5-2.
Katie Henderson, who was 2-for-3 with a double to that point, doubled again, driving in two. Woodard took a big turn around third but ended up scurrying back.
"In hindsight I might should've sent her," first-year Silverdale coach Tim Couch said, "but there was one out and we had our No. 4 batter coming to the plate."
But on a pitch Loren Hilton took, Suttles threw to third baseman Jamani Greer, leading to a rundown and a rally-killing second out. A fisted lineout to shortstop ended it.
"We call pickoffs on occasion, but we let them do it, too," said the Lady Patriots' Kristin Holloway, also a first-year coach. "Kiara and our corners have a lot of discipline and trust in each other. They have chemistry together. When it works like that, they get all the credit."
Holloway mourned the fact they ended up in a tight game after taking a five-run lead.
"We tend to do that," she said. "We've been working on it in practice. We try to put them in situations with a little more pressure on them. They need to settle down and take their time when things like that happen. That's how you can steal momentum from the other team."
Suttles finished 3-for-4 and Greer and Taylor each had an RBI single. Taylor ended up with a six-hitter with nine strikeouts.
Henderson pitched for Silverdale (7-6, 0-1) and surrendered seven hits and one walk and hit one batter. She struck out 11.
"We waited too late to get started," Couch said. "We've been in every game we've played this year. We'll be in some more close games, hopefully. They knew coming into the season they were going to have to cut down on the little mistakes. There are times we've got to get that bunt down, or be smart running the bases, or get that clutch hit."
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.