Brie Levy lived out the dream of every batter Monday at East Hamilton.
The Lady Hurricanes' left fielder strode to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. The bases were loaded. Her team was down by three runs.
Levy, the cleanup batter, then found a 2-1 pitch to her liking and deposited it over the left-field fence for a walk-off grand slam that gave the Lady 'Canes a 6-5 victory over Soddy-Daisy in a pivotal District 5-AAA high school softball game.
East Hamilton (13-2, 5-1) and Soddy-Daisy (12-4, 4-2) entered the game tied for second in the league standings behind Walker Valley. This was the first win over Soddy-Daisy in former Class AA East Hamilton's five-year program history.
"Now we're two and they're three," East Hamilton coach Norma Nelson said. "Walker Valley has no district losses, and that leaves [the Lady Trojans] with two. They could beat Walker Valley next time, or we could. Or Walker Valley could beat either of us. I think it's very even among the top three or four teams."
The Lady 'Canes never led until Levy came through, and those heroics didn't happen without controversy.
Sam Murray started the winning rally with a double to left and was replaced by pinch-runner Miracle Gorman. An out later, Alyssa Strickler hit an infield grounder that left Gorman in a rundown between second and third.
Lady Trojans shortstop Jessica Boles appeared to have tagged Gorman, but no call was made by the base umpire and Gorman made it safely back to second base. Soddy-Daisy coach Wes Skiles then held a conference in the pitching circle and at the end of it said he asked the home-plate umpire if he could ask for help on that play and was told no.
After Savannah Daniels walked, Soddy-pitcher Shonna Penney got Kelsey Payne to fly out to shallow center. That set the stage for Levy.
Nelson said she had informed her players that Penney was throwing a lot of screwballs and they were going to have to be able to hit the inside pitch. Levy, who had popped out, lined out and flied out in her previous plate appearances, evidently listened.
"I learned that I needed to back off the plate a little bit so I could get a hold of an inside pitch," Levy said of her first three at-bats. "I wasn't really looking for anything specific, just something I could drive."
Assistant coach Jackie Freelend, whose last name was McClain when she played at GPS and Alabama, calls the pitches for Soddy-Daisy. Skiles said they were in discussions right before Levy hit her sixth homer of the season.
"She threw the pitch," Skiles said of Penney, "but if she throws it where we call for it, you can't blame her.
"We had gotten her on it before. She made an adjustment."
Winning pitcher Rachel Gamble was the only Lady 'Cane with two hits in the game. She gave up nine but did not allow a walk and had two strikeouts.
"Their pitcher did a great job of keeping us off balance," Skiles said. "That was, I think, the key to the game."
Haley Reynolds had a solo homer in the fifth for Soddy-Daisy, and her triple in the third drove in Brooke Hale, who was also 2-for-3. Abby Walker's 2-for-3 line included two RBIs in the fourth, and she scored on a dropped fly in the outfield in the seventh.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him 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.