MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Daniel Boone's 50th home run led to its 50th victory this season and put the Lady Blazers on the doorstep of a state softball championship.
Kayla Smith's drive to left field leading off the fifth inning proved to be the difference as Daniel Boone edged Soddy-Daisy 2-1 in the first game of the TSSAA Class AAA state finals series Friday at Starplex No. 1.
The teams will play again today at noon EDT for the title.
Although the numbers suggest the Lady Blazers have plenty of punch in their lineup, Smith's shot was her first of the season.
"We do have a lot of home runs," Daniel Boone coach Rick Wagner said. "To be honest, she doesn't fit into our home-run-hitting category."
Soddy-Daisy coach Clifford Kirk said the pitch was a riseball that didn't rise, thus resulting in nothing more than a high fastball. But the coaching veteran didn't seem overly concerned about the mindset of losing pitcher Kelsey Nunley as much as those playing defense behind her.
"We just need to come out ready to play," Kirk said. "We've been in a lot of close games. 'Do you want to win?'"
Soddy-Daisy (45-5) got a one-out homer to center from Tori Denayer in the third inning. Daniel Boone (49-5) tied it in the fourth on Kayla Sanders' sacrifice fly.
The Lady Trojans had a chance to break the tie in the bottom of the inning but with a runner on second and one out, Allison Sheffey made a diving catch along the left-field line, and then Savannah Moore lined hard to Andrea Rogers at third.
"That was a real hard-hit ball to the third baseman," Kirk said. "She made a good play on it. That might've got by the left fielder, as hard as it was hit."
Wagner said he thought a big key to his team's offense was his players making more contact off Nunley than they did in a 2-0 eight-inning loss to the Lady Trojans in the tournament opener.
"I'm tickled we cut our strikeouts down from 16 to nine," Wagner said. "I know nine is still a lot, but any game you've got a potential 21 strikeouts from that girl.
"I wish he'd give her the day off tomorrow."
Kellie Waycaster, who gave up Denayer's home run, was the winning pitcher with the relief help from McKenzie Ferguson. Wagner brought Ferguson in with a runner on second and one out in the fifth when Denayer batted for the second time, but Ferguson registered a strikeout and finished it out.
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.
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