After needing tying seventh-inning home runs on the way to victories Tuesday, top-seeded Chattanooga State finished off its TCCAA/Region VII softball tournament championship in relatively ho-hum fashion Wednesday.
Ashley Czechner pitched a four-hitter and Shelby Johnson hit a third-inning two-run homer in the nationally second-ranked Lady Tigers' 2-0 win over Walters State, after Walters won the late game Tuesday and knocked off 15th-ranked Volunteer State 5-2 in the losers-bracket final.
The win sends Chattanooga State to the NJCAA Division I national tournament May 17-19 in St. George, Utah, with a 56-4 record. The Lady Tigers went 20-0 on their field this season.
The petite Johnson is known for her speed -- with the school record for stolen bases in a season -- but her second homer of 2012 was a no-doubter to right field. It came after MeQuilla Franklin hit a one-out single the opposite way to left field but was forced out on a grounder by Marina Wilkerson.
"We did talk about trying to score some runs prior to the seventh inning and not going into the seventh behind," Lady Tigers coach Beth Keylon-Randolph said. "Our style is to be aggressive, and we were not aggressive early in yesterday's games.
"Shelby has that power," Keylon-Randolph added. "She hit four or five home runs last year, and she hits them a lot in practice and warm-ups. I just yelled at her to be aggressive before the one today."
Said Johnson: "I think that did make me think more about just trying to hit the ball hard. I wasn't trying to hit a home run."
While the Lady Tigers would have liked more runs, Johnson said the team was confident Czechner didn't need them to hold Wednesday's lead.
"Honestly, it's never enough. Walters is a really good hitting team and you have to be careful with their whole lineup," Czechner said. "But I did feel we were in control today -- everyone. I had a great feeling we were going to win, and the whole team was prepared.
"My pitches were working -- well, except for the changeup. You always want more, but two were enough today."
Czechner, who threw a perfect game in the Lady Tigers' first tournament matchup, ended up getting all four of their pitching wins -- including one in relief in Tuesday night's comeback victory against Vol State.
The LSU signee was the regional's most valuable player after being honored as the TCCAA's pitcher of the year. Joining her on the all-tournament team were the three Lady Tigers who hit clutch homers -- Lacye Walker, Andrea Dalton and Johnson -- along with Vol State's Shelby Jo Fenter and Ali Hart and Walters State's Lindsay Loudermilk, Brittany Heffnar and Ashley Rhyne.
Heffnar and Latsha Rectenwald each was 2-for-3 for the hits off Czechner. Chattanooga State's five hits off Kelsey Weddle were divided among five players.
Loudermilk and Haley Taylor homered in the sixth inning of Walters' win over Vol State, breaking a 2-2 tie, and they each were 2-for-3 with three and two RBIs. Rhyne matched Fenter's eight strikeouts.
Ranked teams alive
Nationally ranked Walters State and Columbia State bounced back from losses Tuesday in the state/region baseball tournament to force extra games today.
No. 11 Walters beat Motlow 11-0 and then downed Volunteer State 9-3 and will play the Pioneers again today at 1 p.m. Sixth-ranked Columbia beat Southwest Tennessee 10-1 and then beat Dyersburg Sate 11-6. They play at 4 today, and today's winners will meet Friday for the championship.
Shane Riley was 4-for-4 with two runs and Marcus Davis hit a grand slam for Walters against Vol State. Michael Massi was 2-for-3 with two RBIs for Vol. T.J. Diffenderfer was 3-for-5 and matched Marsalis Holloway's three RBIs for Columbia against Dyersburg, whose Nick Newell was 4-for-5 with a triple and two RBIs.
Diffenderfer was 3-for-4 with two runs and Holloway had two hits, two runs and an RBI in the Chargers' earlier win, when Dustin Delgado had two RBIs. Reid Mattews and Josh Coker each was 2-for-3 with four RBIs for Walters against Motlow; Coker homered twice, Mattews once.