CLEVELAND, Tenn. - The showdown is set. The top two teams in District 5-AAA baseball will square off next Monday and Tuesday.
Winning 10-0 in six innings Tuesday night at Walker Valley, Soddy-Daisy pulled even with Ooltewah with a 6-2 district record. The two Hamilton County teams will play Monday at Ooltewah and Tuesday at Soddy-Daisy.
"This district is a tough grind, but that's typical for the district," Soddy-Daisy coach Jared Hensley said.
His Trojans and the Owls have a two-game lead on third-place Walker Valley (4-4). Cleveland and Rhea County each is 4-5 in the league, McMinn County is 3-6 and young Bradley Central is 1-6.
While Ooltewah enjoyed a week away from district play, Soddy-Daisy suffered a heartbreaking 10-9 loss at home Monday to Walker Valley and Hensley was unsure how his club would respond Tuesday. Monday, the Mustangs scored four runs in the seventh inning despite only ball landing in the outfield
"It is tough sometimes to bounce back after a loss like that," Hensley said.
Tuesday's starting pitchers, Brad Dotson and Walker Valley's Spencer Houston, battled in a pitchers' duel through the first three innings.
Trojans No. 9 batter Austin Smith singled in the first run in the fourth inning. That opportunity was set up by a stolen base for Austin Bailey, who took off for third on a pickoff throw to second and slid in safely.
"Austin [Smith] has struggled a little but we talked to the entire team about this game being a good time for people to step up and get some big hits," said Henley, who is not happy with the number of runners the Trojans have stranded to date.
They did little stranding Tuesday. After Smith's hit, Talon Harris' single to right field loaded the bases and Daniel Crawley followed with a run-scoring walk. The stage was set for Soddy-Daisy slugger James Fowlkes, who has accounted for 54 of the Trojans' 159 runs.
Folkes, who had walked twice by then (one intentional), finally got a pitch to hit and unloaded the bases with a three-run triple to center. Damien DeMatteo scored Fowlkes with a sacrifice fly, Jake Leffew tripled and Dalton Rogers, Hadyn Bailey and Nick Xoinis followed with RBI singles.
Fowlkes' batting average actually dropped. He entered the game hitting .537 despite losing 14 pounds over the last two weeks while battling a virus. The Lee University-bound outfielder and catcher leads the area with 13 home runs and 37 RBIs and is among the leaders in runs scored.
"I was disappointed with the way I hit last yearm so I worked in the weight room and in the batting cage," the 6-foor-2, 180-pounder said. "I haven't been trying to hit home runs but rather make contact."