There were several tricky bounces in Monday's Region 3-A high school softball semifinal at Warner Park. And the last few — which proved to be the most meaningful — went Arts & Sciences' way.
Jamani Greer's high-hopper through the middle drove in the tiebreaking run with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, and the Lady Patriots claimed the first victory at the region level in the program's 19-year history by defeating Marion County 3-2.
"It's a great day to be a Lady Pat," CSAS coach Kaity Holloway said.
CSAS (23-10-1) will host Whitwell for the region championship Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Warner Park. Both teams will advance to Friday's state-sectional round, where the winners advance to the state tournament.
The winning rally was filled with oddball-type plays, begining with winning pitcher Brianna Taylor reaching on a bad-hop single back at losing pitcher Harlie Jordan. Then an error allowed another runner to reach.
Kiara Suttles, who earlier had hit a deep flyout that looked as though it would produce a run but didn't -- Holloway taking the blame for the misjudgment -- hit a pop fly to shallow right. An infielder backpedaled, an outfielder charged in, the infield-fly rule was called, and the ball dropped in, allowing both runners to advance. Greer followed with her chopper.
"We put the ball in play," Holloway said. "I thought we did really even when things weren't going our way. We stayed in it. Our girls continued to make adjustments."
Home runs provided the game's first runs with the Lady Patriots getting a solo blast from Brittany Patmon in the second and the Lady Warriors getting a two-run shot from Tori Hansard in the third.
Patmon reached second base on an error in the sixth and was sacrificed to third. After a popout, Mercedes Benn walked with ball four thrown too high for catcher Kelsey Barnett to reach. As Patmon broke for home, the ball caromed off the backstop back to Barnett, who raced back to the plate and went to apply a tag, but Patmon went low and got under it to make it 2-2.
"It was definitely an instinct," Patmon said. "I was about halfway down and I was thinking, 'I'm not going back.' Then I got under the tag. I would've been dead meat if I had gone back."
Marion County starter Erica O'Kane allowed six hits with one walk and three strikeouts in her five innings of work. Both runs off Jordan, who gave up two hits and a walk with one strikeout, were unearned.
Taylor gave up four hits, but none after the fourth inning. She walked two and totaled 13 strikeouts.
"Bri did a good job of moving the ball well," Marion County coach Chris Thomas said. "Erica kept us in it. When I made the change I thought I'd just throw somebody different, give them a different look. We got the balls we should've been able to make plays on, but the ball took some funny bounces."
Patmon, Taylor and Victorious Blanton each had two hits for CSAS.
Shayla Vandergriff was 2-for-3 for the Lady Warriors and was aboard when Hansard homered.
"We had our ups and downs," Thomas said of the season. "We hit the ball well at times. Our pitching started out slow, but it kind of came on toward the end a little bit. We ended up with a 30-9 record, so not a bad year."
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.