Chatt State hosts historic region

Chatt State hosts historic region

May 5th, 2012 by Ron Bush in Sports - College

Greg Dennis is a baseball coach

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

For the first time in 11 years, the TCCAA and NJCAA Region VII softball tournament is being held on the Chattanooga State campus. That starts at 2 p.m. Sunday with Roane State facing Jackson State and then Motlow College meeting Dyersburg State in play-in games.

Two hours before the first softball pitch, however, a smaller ball will break a much longer dry spell at the school on Amnicola Highway. Chatt State also is hosting the 2012 state/region baseball tournament, and a baseball regional never has been on the campus.

When Chattanooga hosted the tournaments in 2004, Engel Stadium and Warner Park were the venues.

Cleveland State will face Motlow at noon in that historic baseball game on the Tigers field, and that will begin what should be a very competitive event lasting until at least Thursday. The double-elimination softball tourney headed by nationally second-ranked Chattanooga State (52-4) is scheduled to end Wednesday.

"Our tournament should be really good," Cleveland State baseball coach Mike Policastro said Friday, noting the presence not only of nationally fourth-ranked Columbia State and 10th-ranked Walters States but other legitimate contenders.

"Columbia and Walters are top-10; Jackson [State] is good; Volunteer [State] is good; Chattanooga is good. Chatt has great arms," Policastro said. "It's a really talented league. From top to bottom, you can look at the series scores and it's been pretty competitive all year long. People can see a lot of great baseball there next week."

His Cougars uncharacteristically won only three league games this season, but one of those was against Columbia last weekend. And in Motlow's Bucks they're facing a team with "some good players and a really good left-handed pitcher," in Policastro's words.

Also Sunday, Roane State faces Southwest Tennessee at 3. The Sunday losers in both tournaments will be eliminated, but starting Monday each team has to lose twice before champions are left standing. Columbia's Chargers already have secured a spot in the four-team Tennessee-Georgia baseball playoffs at Cochran, Ga., for a berth in the NJCAA World Series, but otherwise it will be a fight to the finish in both diamond sports.

Chattanooga State, which went to the World Series in 2010, was third in the baseball regular season and is in the bracket with Walters -- which was No. 1 in the nation part of the season -- but the Tigers lost two of three games and needed extra innings to win the other in their trip to Dyersburg, their opening opponent at 1 p.m. Monday.

"Dyersburg is going to be a handful," Tigers coach Greg Dennis said. "And Walters is going to be hungry as all get-out. Vol State has been as hot as a firecracker the last four weeks, and Jackson may be the most talented team in the league. It should be a great week."

Dennis is eager to showcase his program's recent stadium renovations and the impressive baseball/softball field house, and softball coach Beth Keylon-Randolph, athletic director Steve Jaecks and the Chattanooga State support personnel also are proud of what the rest of the state and fans can see.

"The school has done an excellent job the last six weeks in making everything look first-class," Dennis said. "It's going to be a lot of fun seeing our facilities used the way they'll be used next week."

He's also happy that a company has been hired to handle all the field work before, between and after games, so it doesn't fall on his team to keep up.

Joe Helseth, special assistant to president Jim Catanzaro, and Anne Carroll, dean of social behavioral sciences, have headed the school's preparations for tournament week, and Jaecks called the organizational effort "pretty amazing. They've done a remarkable job."

Helseth said "20 people" have been involved in weekly meetings, "covering everything from maintenance and grounds to marketing and security." He also lauded "tremendous community support" with sponsorship from 12 organizations.

With the spring semester over, there will be plenty of free parking for the tournaments, which will cost $7 a day ($4 for community college students) or $25 for a tournament pass good for both fields. Concessions will be available as well. But anyone who can't get to a game in person can keep up through Ustream.tv via the tournament page in Chattanooga State's website.

Contact Ron Bush at rbush@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6291.