Rebounding from a weekend loss to nationally ranked Tullahoma in the Wildcat Classic, Ooltewah's baseball team improved to 6-1 with a District 5-AAA victory Tuesday against visiting McMinn County.
Senior pitcher Zach Thompson got the 7-1 win with a fastball-dominated three-hitter.
"We played a lot better as a baseball team," said McMinn coach Jason Howard, whose team has begun the season with seven straight losses. "We played better defense. At the plate, well, a lot of that was Thompson. He pounded us with fastballs and he had good location.
"Other than that [two-hit] first inning and a hit in the fifth, he pretty much handled us."
Thompson so much liked the way his fastballs, some of them estimated to be in the mid to upper 80s, were moving that he threw just one changeup.
"His pitching was awesome and the fastball was his best pitch. His location was pretty much on point all day," said Owls catcher Brody Binder, who's muscled up by about 20 pounds since last season.
Thompson suggested that his performance could have been even better.
"I felt good and it was a beautiful day for baseball, but I wasn't as peppy as usual. We had a 6:30 a.m. tarp pull," he said.
The Owls, many of whom were out of school, had to get the infield cover off after Monday's heavy rain so the field would be playable Tuesday afternoon. And it was more of a job than usual, Owls coach Brian Hitchcox noting in a pregame visit that the tarp was covered with ice.
Other than the unwanted alarms on a day when many could have slept in -- Tuesday was the ACT testing date for juniors -- the Owls returned to their winning ways while improving to 3-0 in 5-AAA.
Binder, also the Owls' quarterback in football, and leadoff man Logan Fugate were in the thick of the offense, Binder banging a pair of doubles and driving in a run and Fugate getting two RBIs on a 2-for-3 showing that included a double.
"I thought we had something going in the fifth, and [Fugate] cuts it short with a great diving catch [in center]," Howard said.
The Cherokees, who went up 1-0 on Cory Wade's double to left field in the first inning, got two men aboard before Fugate choked off the rally by diving to his right and stabbing a two-on, two-out shot off the bat of Tyler Biddle.
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...