published Monday, March 31st, 2014

Freshman pitchers shine in Chattanooga area softball

Silverdale Baptist pitcher Emily Harkleroad is one of several freshman pitchers making a good first impression in area high school softball this season.
Silverdale Baptist pitcher Emily Harkleroad is one of several freshman pitchers making a good first impression in area high school softball this season.
Photo by Dan Henry.

Ooltewah Invitational

At The Summit of Softball Complex

Friday's pool play

Field No. 1: Shelbyville vs. Rhea County, 4; Grundy County vs. Rhea County, 5:30; Grundy County vs. Shelbyville, 7

Field No. 2: Todd County (Ky.) vs. Loudon, 5:30; Polk County vs. (Bristol) Virginia High, 7; Todd County vs. Bledsoe County, 8:30

Field No. 3: Cleveland vs. Marion County, 4; Ooltewah vs. (Bristol) Virginia High, 5:30; Collierville vs. Marion County, 7; Collierville vs. Cleveland, 8:30

Field No. 5: McMinn County vs. McMinn Central, 4; McMinn Central vs. Cumberland County, 5:30; Bledsoe County vs. Loudon, 7

Field No. 6: Ooltewah vs. Sequoyah, 4; Sequoyah vs. Polk County, 5:30; McMinn County vs. Columbia Central, 7; Columbia Central vs. Cumberland County, 8:30

Not even three weeks into the TSSAA softball season and already evidence shows that a collection of freshman pitchers are making a big impression in the Chattanooga area.

Consider these numbers as of last Wednesday among teams that have provided season-long statistics to the Times Free Press: Silverdale Baptist Academy's Emily Harkleroad, South Pittsburg's Savannah Sartain, Sequatchie County's Emily Yell, Baylor's Cayley Quinn and Ooltewah's Jadyn Raschke each had more than one pitching victory and a combined pitching record of 22-0. Additionally, Chloe Campbell was 1-0 for Marion County and Carley Long was 2-1 for Whitwell.

Another freshman, Central's Brooke Parrott, was the area's leader in strikeouts with 50. Harkleroad (37) was second and Sartain (34) was tied for third.

Adding to the strength and youthfulness on the local pitching landscape, East Hamilton's Shelby Duggard had a 4-1 pitching record and GPS's Shelby Walters had pitched 10 innings, won both of her decisions and had an ERA of 0.00. They're eighth-graders.

Whitwell has fast start

Anyone who was concerned about Whitwell's softball team making the coaching transition from Grace Pickett, who guided the Lady Tigers to a third-place finish in the Class A state tournament last season, to Derrin Easterly this season have no need to worry now. Whitwell is off to an 11-1 start, and its three District 6 victories are the only games in which it has played teams in its own classification.

The Lady Tigers have beaten four Class AAA teams, three Class AA teams and a Class AAAA team out of Pennsylvania two weekends ago in Gordonsville's tournament at Cookeville. They're loss was to Class AA DeKalb County in the same tournament and came as a result of a two-out, three-run homer by DeKalb in the bottom of a second tie-breaker inning.

"Our pitching and defense has been outstanding," Easterly said. "We haven't been as consistent hitting as I'd like for us to be. Defense has been our strength."

Alyssa Coppinger is batting .361 and leads Whitwell with 13 RBIs, 11 stolen bases and two triples. She's tied with Kacee Hedrick (.394) for the team lead with two home runs and tied with Kathleen Sledge (.353) for the lead with three doubles.

Storm Roberts leads in batting at .400 and runs scored with 12. All are juniors, and veteran players.

"There at first it was kind of a struggle for me figuring out the girls," Easterly said. "But it's been about as smooth as you could hope for. It's a good bunch of athletes, and that helps. I couldn't ask for a better situation to walk into."

Ooltewah Invitational coming

For more than 20 years Ooltewah hosted the Lady Owls Choo Choo Classic, but that softball tournament is now East Hamilton's now that former Lady Owls coach Norma Nelson is there. On Friday and Saturday, the first Ooltewah Invitational softball tournament is scheduled to be held at The Summit of Softball Complex.

Seventeen teams will compete, beginning with pool play starting Friday at 4 p.m. Pool games resume Saturday at 10 a.m.

Afterward, based on pool records teams will be placed and seeded in Gold- and Silver-division brackets for single-elimination play set to begin at 1 p.m. The Silver final is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. The Gold final is slated for 7:30.

"We've got a team from the Memphis area, along with Shelbyville and Columbia, and we've got two out-of-state teams," Ooltewah coach Jon Massey said, referring to Virginia High from Bristol and Todd County, Ky. "I just hope we have good weather."

Contact Kelley Smiddie at ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie

about Kelley Smiddie...

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 ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com.

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