CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Anyone who thinks Ooltewah isn't playing better softball in the latter part of the 2014 season compared to the first part should've been at Cleveland High School to see the fourth-seeded Lady Owls take on the District 5-AAA tournament's top-seeded team in a winners-bracket semifinal Saturday morning.
Ooltewah earned an overwhelming 10-1 victory over East Hamilton, which had beat the Lady Owls 10-4 in Ooltewah's second game of the season.
Second-seeded Soddy-Daisy defeated third-seeded Walker Valley 5-3 in the other semifinal.
Ooltewah (28-9) will take on Soddy-Daisy (30-7) at Cleveland at 7 p.m. Monday. The Lady Trojans won 10-0 and 13-0 in their regular-season meetings.
"My philosophy is every day's a new day," Ooltewah coach Jon Massey said. "You never know what's going to happen."
East Hamilton (25-9) rebounded in the losers bracket and beat Bradley Central 15-5. Walker Valley (30-13) beat McMinn County 12-2, setting up an elimination game between the Lady Hurricanes and Lady Mustangs at 5 on Monday.
Ooltewah took charge early Saturday with a six-run second inning.
"When we played them before, we had a little success," said Massey, whose team handed the Lady 'Canes one of their two league losses when they beat them 3-2 on April 3. "We were confident when we went up there to swing the bat. We were aggressive -- at times too aggressive, but we swung the bats well today. The bottom third of our lineup was really, really good. They were 5-for-12 and one of those five was a home run."
The home run belonged to Elizabeth Novelli. In the heart of the Lady Owls' order, Allie Jones doubled twice, drove in a run and scored twice, and Sloan Sullivan was 2-for-3 with a double, three RBIs and two runs scored.
The run allowed by winning pitcher Cameron Baltimore, who threw a one-hitter, scored on Miracle Gorman's sacrifice fly in the third inning and was unearned.
Soddy-Daisy took a quick lead with three runs in the bottom of the first inning, but Walker Valley's two-run sixth cut the margin to 4-3. Soddy-Daisy's run in the sixth proved to be key. Baylee Boen singled to start Walker Valley's seventh, but down two runs instead of one, the Lady Mustangs did not try a sacrifice bunt and the Lady Trojans turned a lineout into a double play.
"That was huge," Soddy-Daisy coach Wes Skiles said. "They came back again and rallied after that. But that was a rally-killer. Whether I'm on the short end or the big end, what-ifs never mean anything."
The run in the sixth came on a leadoff home run by No. 9 batter Abby Walker, who ended up 2-for-3.
"That is the first home run she's hit in high school ball," Skiles said of his junior second baseman. "She's one of the best kids to coach. She's always hustling and getting after it. I'm so proud to see her get something to show for it."
Shana Ward went 3-for-3 for the Lady Trojans and drove in a run. Haley Reynolds had an RBI double and a homer.
Emily Edwards got her third save in relief of winning pitcher Shonna Penney.
Emilee Spann was 3-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs for Walker Valley.
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.