That eerie, goosebump feeling of déjà vu wafted over Bud Ball Field most of the evening. But the shroud of doubt and the fear of repeating the past are history.
Ooltewah’s past, if not all good, is better.
The Owls defeated Coffee County 3-1 on Monday and advanced to the Region 3-AAA baseball championship game, ending a year of doubt that had dominated their nightmares since last year’s 10-inning upset loss to Warren County.
“There was no dogpile at home plate. We didn’t really celebrate,” Ooltewah coach Brian Hitchcox said. “I think the guys were so intent on finishing the job. They were focused on getting past this round.
“I think this win will allow the guys to relax and just play on Wednesday and Friday.”
The Owls will host Cookeville, which will bring a 33-1-1 record into Wednesday’s region final. That game, though, is not an elimination game but one that determines who will travel and who will host in Friday’s sectionals.
Ooltewah secured its region berth behind the two-hit pitching of senior right-hander Zach Thompson, who committed to Chattanooga State earlier in the day and then left Tigers coaches Greg Dennis and Coty Green patting themselves on the back with his showing against Coffee County.
Thompson gave up two hits and a run in the first inning and no-hit the Red Raiders the rest of the way.
He wouldn’t dispute the notion that a dyed-red Mohawk hairstyle had changed the Owls’ luck.
“This was my first year getting to pitch in the region, and I wanted to do something different,” he said.
He didn’t really do that, although the two-hitter was a masterpiece.
“I got in trouble early — they’re a sound team — and I was tense early. The feeling now, though, is a lot different than that we had last year,” Thompson said.
“The first pitch of the game he jammed a guy, but the guy got a hit out of it,” Hitchcox said. “Then their three-hole guy got jammed and he managed to flick it into the outfield to score their run. And from there it was all Thompson. It was nothing eye-popping stats-wise, but he had great stuff and this was probably his best outing.”
Hayden Bailey was 3-for-3 for the Owls. He and Brody Binder had RBIs.
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 ...