Not long after the ball nestled into first baseman Haley Reynolds' mitt for the final out in Tuesday's high school softball game at Soddy-Daisy, it was in Wes Skiles' hands.
"I thought I'd keep it," Skiles said after Soddy-Daisy defeated Ooltewah 3-0, leaving the Lady Trojans' first-year coach with a 1-0 career record.
More importantly, as far as the 2013 season goes, it puts Soddy-Daisy a game up on the Lady Owls in the District 5-AAA standings. The first of two district games between the rivals ended up being the season opener after a draw was held at a district scheduling meeting.
"We've got to play them anyway," Ooltewah coach Norma Nelson said. "We've just got to be better than that."
The Lady Trojans' only graduation loss from last season was right-handed pitcher Kelsey Nunley, who currently has a 12-1 pitching record at the University of Kentucky. Ashley Chaney was the winning pitcher Tuesday. She had three strikeouts and allowed one walk.
Chaney gave up one single in four different innings, thanks to center fielder Brooke Hale throwing out Allie Jones trying to stretch the second of her two hits into a double with one out in the sixth inning. Cassidy Hackney handled multiple hot smashes at third base and led Soddy-Daisy with five assists.
"You've got to play solid defense with a pitcher that makes you put the ball in play," Skiles said. "Our outfielders made some great jumps on some balls. There were a few balls out there where they really saved us. And Cassidy Hackney, my goodness. I don't know if anything got by her."
The Lady Trojans scored with two out in the first inning. Morgan Bailey's single was misplayed, putting her at third, and Reynolds followed with a double. Reynolds also doubled leading off the bottom of the sixth ahead of Chaney's hard line-drive triple -- both into the right-field corner. Hannah Smith's two-out infield hit that tipped off left-hander Taylor Hicks' glove for an infield hit drove in the final run.
Reynolds, Smith and Bailey were each 2-for-3. Bailey was robbed of an RBI when Jones in center gunned down Hackney trying to score from second on her single in the third.
"It had to be perfect," Skiles said of Jones' throw, "and it was."
Kelsey Chernak, who led off the game with an infield single in the hole between shortstop and third base, was the only Lady Owls runner to get as far as second base.
"We've got to hit the ball better," Nelson said. "I thought Taylor Hicks threw the ball really well. Our defense played well except for a couple of plays.
"It's the first game of the season. I realize they lost Nunley, but they've got all their hitters back and they hit the ball well. We've just got to work on things and keep getting better."
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.