After East Hamilton went through all its would-haves, and Central went through all its could-haves, and both teams went through their share of should-haves, East Hamilton managed to emerge victorious in the winners-bracket final Wednesday in the District 6-AA high school softball tournament at Warner Park.
The Lady Hurricanes erased Central's early lead, then managed to hang on and defeat the Lady Purple Pounders 6-5.
East Hamilton (17-12-2) will play for the championship today at 5:30 p.m. against either Central (27-14) or Hixson (15-20), which played in a late game in the losers-bracket final.
East Hamilton catcher Emma Brooks led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a home run to make it 6-2, which set the stage for a drama-filled top of the seventh.
Danielle Shadden was hit by a pitch ahead of a single by substitute Sam Scott. Brooke Eller's single loaded the bases before Powell hit an infield dribbler that turned into East Hamilton's only error on the throw home, allowing Shadden to score. Scott came around as well for an apparent run, but after she was in the dugout the Lady 'Canes appealed that she hadn't touched a dirt-covered home plate and was ruled out.
"I couldn't see from where I was," East Hamilton coach Cara Stiles said. "My catcher said she definitely missed it. And that's part of the game."
Central coach LeeAnne Shurette's was in the third-base coach's box.
"I think she hit the corner of the plate," said Shurette, who pointed to a spot on the plate as the home-plate umpire was dusting it off, claiming the mark was made by Scott's cleat.
Eller ended up scoring on a wild pitch later in the inning and Chasidy Ainslie added an RBI single to get the Lady Pounders within one with one out. Ainslie moved to into scoring position on a groundout, but winning pitcher Maria Walshe induced a popout behind second base that ended it.
"They hit the ball well that last inning," Stiles said. "They were getting base hits and there was nothing we could do about it. I stayed with Maria, though, because she had been so effective."
The Lady 'Canes were down 1-0 before their three-run third that included a collision at the plate between Powell, the catcher, and runner Shaliyah Geathers. The Lady Pounders' only error was in that inning and cost them a run right before the last out.
"We should've done some things earlier on and we wouldn't have been in this spot," Shurette said. "We didn't make the adjustments we needed to at the plate. We did at the end, but we talked about it the whole game."
Tori Barnes was 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored for East Hamilton. Walshe went 2-for, who gave up 10 hits and one walk while striking out none, went 2-for-3 with an RBI. Geathers was 2-for-4, scored twice and stole a base.
Ainslie ended up 3-for-4 with two RBIs for Central and Eller was 2-for-3 and scored twice. Powell, who injured her left hand in the collision and finished the game playing right field, went 2-for-4 with an RBI and scored a run.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
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.