East Hamilton defeated East Ridge 8-4 on Thursday in the championship game of the District 6-AA high school softball tournament at Warner Park.
But it wasn't the Lady Pioneers that East Hamilton coach Cara Stiles was expecting to see in the final.
Fourth-seeded East Ridge edged top-seeded Central 1-0 earlier Thursday in the losers-bracket final and will instead be moving on to the Region 3 tournament along with Stiles' Lady Hurricanes.
East Hamilton (22-14) is scheduled to host Polk County at 5:30 p.m. in one of Monday's semifinals. Meigs County will host East Ridge (14-21) at 6 in the other.
The Lady Hurricanes scored in each of the first four innings in the title game. That included a four-run third.
Kelsey Payne went 2-for-4 and started the scoring with a two-run triple in the first. She scored a run in the third. Taylor Harris also went 2-for-4 with a triple and a run scored, and leadoff batter Shaliyah Geathers was 2-for-4 with an RBI, two runs scored and two stolen bases.
"I think we have one of the best lineups around," Stiles said. "I really think we can beat anybody. When we hit like we know how to hit it and make very few errors on defense, we have the talent and ability to beat any team. I have all the confidence in the world."
Left-hander Maria Walshe was the winning pitcher and also contributed a run-scoring triple.
Leilanie Forton was 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored for the Lady Pioneers. Tatiana Neejluh and Holly Wilson each was 2-for-4 with Neejluh batting in a run and scoring one.
East Ridge's victory Thursday ended the season for the Lady Purple Pounders, who had not lost to a district opponent all season until Wednesday night. That's when second-seeded East Hamilton slipped past them 5-4 with an unearned run in the top of the seventh inning in the winners-bracket final.
"When we came out and played Central, my kids were out for blood," Stiles said. "We decided to be disciplined and lay off the riseball."
East Ridge got a one-out single from Alexis Moore in the first inning against the Lady Purple Pounders. Shelby Hamill singled with two outs and Neejluh hit an RBI double.
East Ridge coach Sandy Mauser said her team had gained some confidence through its play earlier in the tournament, mainly in its hitting. But much of the credit for the win went to pitcher Ashley Irvin, who limited Central to three singles. She worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the seventh with the help of a line-drive double play.
"Ashley Irvin did an awesome job," Mauser said. "She kept them off balance. We had faced them so many times, we decided we'd be more aggressive with our pitch calling and go from there."
Meigs wins 5-AA
Meigs County defeated Polk County 6-2 in the District 5-AA final at Decatur.
Sophomore right-hander Morgan Boggess had another standout performance, pitching a five-hitter with no walks and six strikeouts and going 2-for-3 with a home run. Brandi Kilpatrick and Kelsey Meadows also had two hits each and an RBI for Meigs (23-11).
Sydney Sloan was 2-for-3 for the Lady Wildcats and provided their runs with a home run.
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.