Top-seeded Chattanooga State got off to a perfect start in the state/region softball tournament it is hosting.
LSU-bound Ashley Czechner pitched a five-inning perfect game and Marina Wilkerson provided leadoff heroics defensively and offensively Monday morning as the nationally second-ranked Lady Tigers improved to 53-4 with an 8-0 win over Jackson State.
Lady Generals shortstop Bo Sullivan opened the game with a line drive that landed in right field, but Wilkerson gunned her out at first base and no one else got close to a hit off Czechner (28-3), who had seven strikeouts. One batter struck out swinging at what looked to be a ball four.
"Marina saved me again. She saved a no-hitter for me earlier in the year," said Czechner, the TCCAA pitcher of the year. "She's a really good outfielder."
The Lady Tigers' other two outfielders, Shelby Johnson and Andrea Dalton, joined Czechner on the all-conference first team along with first baseman Lacye Walker and third baseman MeQuilla Franklin. Catcher Chelsea Burgess and pitcher Janna Scheff were second-team choices, as were Cleveland State players Casey Griffin and Sydney Howell.
Chattanooga State's Beth Keylon-Randolph shared coach-of-the-year honors with Johnny Lynn of second-seeded and 15th-ranked Volunteer State. Lynn was not at the tournament Monday because of the weekend death of his brother-in-law in a car accident.
Wilkerson was 3-for-3 with a double, a run scored and an RBI at the top of the Chatt State order Monday. Walker started the scoring with a two-run home run in a three-run first inning and scorched a double off the fence leading off the third and scored to make it 4-0.
The Lady Tigers added two runs in the fourth and ended the game in the fifth when Beth Breeden reached on an error and Andie Johnson, pinch-hitter Kristen Qualls and Franklin singled. A wild pitch preceded Franklin's hit and two runs actually scored, but the run rule went in effect when Johnson crossed the plate.
Breeden entered the game in the first inning to finish the at-bat of designated player Kortney Koroll, who injured a knee on a hard swing.
Franklin, Shelby Johnson and Walker each was 2-for-3 for the Lady Tigers, who play Columbia State at 10 this morning.
"I'm just trying to see the ball, hit the ball," Walker said about her smashes, "like Coach has been trying to tell me - and to relax."
The former Grace Academy star admitted that she still likes to pitch and looks forward to doing more of that next year with Czechner gone, but she said she always would pick getting to hit if she had to choose.
Columbia opened Monday's play with a 5-0 defeat of Cleveland State. Brandie Lander pitched a one-hitter with 13 strikeouts, leadoff batter Shelby Boyd was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run, Blakely Robertson homered and scored twice and Rachel Curtis batted in two runs.
Walters beat Southwest Tennessee 9-1 and Brittany Heffner went 4-for-4 with two doubles and four RBIs, Courtney Davis was 3-for-4 with two RBIs and TCCAA player of the year Randi Wimpy was 2-for-2 with two RBIs. Lindsay Loudermilk was 3-for-4 and scored three times.
Vol State (46-7) beat Motlow 8-0 as Shelby Jo Fenter threw a six-inning one-hitter with 12 strikeouts and Kelsey Trammel smashed a two-run homer, Heather Daniel had two hits and three RBIs and Ali Hart hit a two-run triple.
Cleveland State and Southwest Tennessee won the evening losers-bracket games, the latter by scoring twice in the bottom of the seventh for a 4-3 defeat of Motlow. Hollye Taylor had a tying pinch-hit single and Heidi Molder's bases-loaded grounder was mishandled, allowing Ashley Hobson to score. Alissa Dickerson triple and singled for all three Motlow runs.
The Lady Cougars won 4-1 over Jackson State as Maura Ditto went 3-for-3 with two doubles and two RBIs and Casey Griffin had two hits in support of Brandie Lander.