East Hamilton coach Cara Stiles watched her team shake off some rust and then crush Red Bank 12-2 in five innings Tuesday in the District 6-AA softball tournament at Warner Park.
Then she caught up with friends while watching part of Central defeating East Ridge 5-2 to earn a winners-bracket matchup with Stiles' Lady Hurricanes.
"It took a minute, but they came through with their hitting," Stiles said of her team. "It was so nice to come in with a bye and know that at least one other team would have a loss by the time we played."
The Lady Lions earned their matchup with East Hamilton by defeating Hixson 10-5. Red Bank carried that momentum into its second game of the day and went ahead 2-1.
But East Hamilton (16-13-2) roared back with a 10-run bottom of the third with the first three runs coming off first-time freshman pitcher Dani Usher. Tori Barnes belted a two-run double off the left-field wall. Eight more runs crossed the plate as 14 batters stepped to the plate in the inning.
East Ridge, which began the day with 10 healthy players, defeated Tyner 16-4 and Central beat Brainerd 21-0 to set up the second game that Stiles watched Tuesday.
But she missed the first pitch of the game -- a home run blasted off Chasidy Ainslie by East Ridge shortstop Alexis Moore, who later left the game with a knee injury.
"I thought, 'Well, she hung that one over the plate,' and [Moore] is a good athlete," Central coach LeeAnne Shurette said. "In a way, it was a good way to start because [Ainslie] did a good job for the rest of the game because she kept pitches out of the middle."
The Lady Pounders (27-13) played "small ball" in the bottom of the fifth, which netted two runs and a 3-1 lead as the results of two bunt singles, two sacrifice bunts and an error.
"The girls put the bunt down and they couldn't have done it more perfect," Shurette said. "That was huge in getting us going."
East Ridge scored in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Tatyana Najeeullah, but it was their only run in an inning that started with the bases loaded and zero outs.
"I wasn't worried," Ainslie said. "I had to pitch to my spot."
Central added two runs in the bottom of the sixth and Ainslie pitched a three-up, three-down top of the seventh for her 21st win and a matchup with East Hamilton today at 6 p.m.
"I thought we played solid for five innings," said East Ridge coach Sandy Mauser, who has nine healthy players available. "They put it to us in the end."
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...