CLEVELAND, Tenn. — As positvely as things went for Walker Valley in its District 5-AAA high school softball home game Thursday, things were equally negative for Ooltewah.
The last couple of years the Lady Mustangs and Lady Owls have swapped out winning some close battles, but Walker Valley ended up pulling away Thursday and beating Ooltewah 11-0 in six innings.
The first thing Walker Valley coach Lauren Limburg said when interviewed after the game was, "I'm really pleased with how we played." Ooltewah coach Norma Nelson's first response was quite different.
"We didn't play well," Nelson said. "We haven't played since last Saturday. The first inning we were bad. I don't know. It was very disappointing. These girls work hard. They do everything we ask. We didn't play well defensively. We didn't get the bunt down. We didn't hit. Take your pick."
The first of four errors by the Lady Owls allowed the Lady Mustangs' first two runs to score, and Mackenzie Elrod singled in a run to make it 3-0 at the end of the first inning.
The score remained that way until the bottom of the sixth when Walker Valley (6-1, 3-0) erupted for eight runs, capped by Rachel Percy's mercy-rule walk-off grand slam. A.J. Chancey had a two-run homer in the outburst that included two of Ooltewah's errors. Emilee Spann's pinch-hit double got the rally started, and winning pitcher Sidney Hooper contributed a two-RBI single.
"You remember the home runs, but a lot of people stepped up and got the job done at the plate," Limburg said. "I've been preaching to the girls to not take a pitch off, at the plate or in the field. Good teams are always ready and always alert."
Hooper found herself facing the tying run at the plate with none out in the fifth and with two out in the sixth. But two of her eight strikeouts helped her out of the fifth-inning jam.
"I thought she had excellent movement today," Limburg said. "Her pitches were working really well. She hit her spots. I think having had those runners on and getting out of it was big. Stopping as good of a hitting team as Ooltewah is shows a lot about our defense and Sidney's pitching."
Allie Jones, who had two of the four hits allowed by Hooper, was robbed of a home run in the sixth when her line shot hit the top of the center-field fence and stayed in the park for a long single. She stole second before Elizabeth Novelli drew the only walk Hooper allowed, and then a lineout ended the threat.
"I think sometimes when you don't score in those situations," Nelson said, "it stays in the back of your head and it kind of has an effect on your defense."
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.