Ooltewah's Kerri Catchings suffered a cruel twist of irony in Monday's winners-bracket final in the District 5-AAA high school softball tournament at Soddy-Daisy.
No one had more defensive gems than the senior left fielder, but Jessica Boles' single skipped past her in the second inning that allowed pinch runner Brooke Hale to score from first base, and that was all pitcher Kelsey Nunley needed as Soddy-Daisy beat the Lady Owls 1-0.
Soddy-Daisy (38-4) advances to the championship game(s) scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. and 8, if necessary.
"This puts us in the region, which is the big thing," Soddy-Daisy coach Clifford Kirk said. "We're still not hitting the ball like we're supposed to."
Ooltewah (27-10) is scheduled to play in the losers-bracket final tonight at 7 against the winner of the game at 5 between Rhea County and Walker Valley. The Lady Mustangs defeated McMinn County 14-2 on Monday.
Ooltewah right-hander Taylor Baird matched Nunley's three-hitter, but Catchings had a lot to do with that.
"She made some outstanding plays," Ooltewah coach Norma Nelson said. "I mean several."
Catchings had five putouts overall, tracking one down in foul territory after a long run. She recorded each out in the bottom of the fifth, starting with a running catch in left-center in which she hit the fence and ending with a diving catch of a sinking line drive.
"Their left fielder did a heck of a job," Kirk said. "She made a good catch next to the fence and two diving catches."
But she was unable to keep Boles' hit in front of her in the second, which began with a Haley Reynolds single.
"That's what happens when you have two good teams," Kirk said. "You can't make a mistake or you can get burned."
The Lady Owls' best chances to score were when they put runners on second and first with none out in the second and with one out in the seventh. But Nunley, who walked two and had 13 strikeouts, was up to the task.
"We swung at some balls," Nelson said. "She's such a good pitcher, we wanted to try to hit before she would get ahead."
Baird ended with six strikeouts and did not allow a walk.
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.