Two strikes; two outs; who cares?
That has been the motto for Soddy-Daisy's softball team this season, and Friday once again the simple philosophy rang true.
The Lady Trojans defeated Oakland 5-4 in nine innings in a Class AAA state sectional at Soddy-Daisy on a squeeze bunt by Shana Ward. But if not for her own heroics two innings earlier, when Soddy-Daisy's season was down to its last strike, she wouldn't have been in position to lay down the game-winner.
Soddy-Daisy (35-8) advances to next week's state tournament at Murfreesboro.
The game was tied at 2 heading to the top of the seventh inning, which began with Lady Patriots leadoff batter Lacie Rinus reaching on a single. After a sacrfice, Abby Sargent drove a pitch over the left-field fence to make it 4-2.
Soddy-Daisy got a clutch two-out double from Haley Reynolds in the bottom of the inning, and Grayson Brown walked to load the bases. Ward fell behind 0-2, got the count to 1-2, then dropped a single into right-center. Pinch-runner Lauren Thomas scored the tying run from second.
The bottom of the ninth began with Cameren Swafford's infield single. Reynolds was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game, and a sacrifice advanced the runners. This time when Ward looked to the third-base coach's box, she got the bunt sign.
"I had a time earlier in the game where I wish I would've squeezed," Soddy-Daisy coach Wes Skiles said. "I second-guessed myself then. I should've went with my gut. That time I just felt like the element of suprise might work. Shana's a good batter. I read her face when I gave it to her. She looked confident, so we went with it."
Ward said she was in the same clutch situation in last year's sectional loss and struck out. As far as which situation Friday was the shakiest, she said: "I can't tell you. Both were nerve-racking.
Ward ended up 2-f0r-4 and was the only Lady Trojans player with more than one hit.
Starting pitcher Emily Edwards pitched into the fifth before being replaced by Shonna Penney, who served up Sargent's home run. Edwards returned at that point and finished for the pitching victory.
"Her body language told me I needed to go get her," Skiles said of Penney. "She's a freshman. She'll learn from it. Sometimes the worst thing that happens to us ends up being the best."
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.