DUNLAP, Tenn. — After 24 years, Kelly Somerville's soul can now rest a little easier.
Somerville is in her first season as head coach at Sequatchie County where she was a standout player but never played in a state-tournament game. But thanks to a freshman's standout perfomance along with some others Sunday afternoon, she'll get to compete at the state tournament as a coach.
Sparked by Emily Yell's no-hitter, the Lady Indians defeated Polk County 5-0 in a Class AA state sectional at Sequatchie County.
Sequatchie (23-12) advances to the state tournament in Murfreesboro where they will take on Lexington (42-5) at approximately 7 p.m. EDT at Starplex No. 2 in an opening-round game Tuesday.
Somerville recalls every painful detail of two one-run losses in sectionals when she played for the Lady Indians before moving on to a career at UT-Martin. She was a sophomore and her sister, former head coach Courtney, was a senior the last time Sequatchie won a region championship before this year.
"When I was 6 years old, I sat at Warner Park and watched a Lady Indians softball team win the state tournament," said Somerville, whose father, Pete Swafford, was coach of that 1990 Class AA state-championship team. "The picture that was put in the paper, I stood right by the photographer. My mom didn't want me running out onto the field.
"I said to myself then, 'I want to play in a state tournament.' I didn't get to do that, but I wanted to go to the state tournament since I was 6 years old. I put that as a goal, and I've never altered it. It seems surreal right now. Twenty-four years ago and I've finally seen it through. It's pretty overwhelming."
Yell said her changeup and curve were the best pitches she had going Sunday. And those in the dugout who may have known she was working on a no-hitter did their part by keeping quiet about it because she had no idea until someone told her when the game was over.
"That is the best game I've ever seen her pitch," said Somerville, who coached Yell in middle school. "I've seen her pitch many games. I spent a lot of time talking to her before the game. She was ready today. Her changeup was dynamite."
The Lady Indians threatened in the bottom of the first inning, getting runners to third and second before the Lady Wildcats turned a line drive into a double play, but broke through in the second when Allyson Davenport led off with a home run. Ashley Moffitt's RBI triple highlighted a three-run third.
"That made me feel great," Yell said of being staked to an early lead.
Yell allowed three walks -- all to Briana Muller, who homered twice in Polk County's Region 3 championship-game loss to Central. She ended up with eight strikeouts and did not allow a ball out of the infield after the first inning.
Davenport and Moffitt each finished 2-for-3. Katelynne Cheatham doubled in the fifth and eventually scored the final run on Amber Kilgore's groundout.
"I think the big-game setting got to us," said Bill Triplett, who coached Polk County (25-8) to its first district championship since 1994 this season with center fielder Felecia Johnson being the only senior. "We got physically whipped -- pitching, defense and hitting. Sometimes it's like that. They beat us in every facet of the game. Today they were better than us.
"I thought we had a chance to be a good team at the beginning of the year. I think we went about as far as we could possibly go."
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.