At Soddy Lake Kids' Park
Friday's pool-play schedule
• 9 a.m. - Central vs. Whitwell; Soddy-Daisy vs. Hixson; East Hamilton vs. Bledsoe County; Sequatchie County vs. Grace Academy.
• 10:30 a.m. - Arts & Sciences vs. Powell; Sale Creek vs. Karns; Seymour vs. Union County; Halls vs. Ooltewah.
• Noon - Hixson vs. Powell; East Hamilton vs. Karns; Seymour vs. Central; Halls vs. Sequatchie County.
• 1:30--Ooltewah vs. Grace Academy; Arts & Sciences vs. Soddy-Daisy; Union County vs. Whitwell; Sale Creek vs. Bledsoe County
• 3 - Halls vs. Grace Academy; Ooltewah vs. Sequatchie County; Union County vs. Central; Sale Creek vs. East Hamilton.
• 4:30 - Hixson vs. Arts & Sciences; Powell vs. Soddy-Daisy; Karns vs. Bledsoe County; Seymour vs. Whitwell.
The 23rd Lady Trojan Invitational high school softball tournament will be held this weekend at the Soddy Lake Kids' Park.
This year's field consists of 16 teams, which is smaller than in recent years. First-year coach Wes Skiles, who was a Soddy-Daisy assistant the previous four years, said having a lower number of teams wasn't by design.
The Lady Trojan Invitational is played on Easter weekend, and from year to year Easter Sunday could be as early as March 22 or as late as April 25. Riverdale is hosting its Lady Warrior Classic this weekend, which includes many of the midstate's top programs, as well as GPS. The Bruisers and Baylor, also absent from this year's field, have steadily participated in the event throughout the years.
"It just didn't fall right this year," Skiles said. "A lot of our regulars chose to do other things this year, but I think we'll get it back up. I would've liked to have played in the Riverdale tournament, too. It just didn't work out. The good news is instead of finishing at 2 a.m., like we've done before, we should be finished Saturday at 2 or 3 p.m., pending the weather."
Pool play is scheduled to begin Friday at 9 a.m., and conclude with games set to start at 4:30 p.m. The top two finishers in each of the four pools will be placed in the Gold bracket for single-elimination and the others will compete in the Silver bracket.
Elimination is slated to begin Saturday at 9 a.m. Championship games are scheduled at 1:30 p.m.
For the third year Walker Valley will be holding a 50-inning intrasquad game on Wednesday starting at 10 a.m. The Lady Mustangs will be divided into Blue and Gold squads and compete for 25 innings, take a break for a cookout, then play the other half.
Coach Lauren Limburg said much like a walk-a-thon, the players solicit sponsors who agree to donate a certain amount of money for each inning a girl plays. Thanks to previous 50-inning games, the Lady Mustangs this season have new backstop and dugout netting, among other expenditures.
"It's just a great time to be together," Limburg said. "We'll use a pitching machine. There's no way anybody is pitching 50 innings. It's a great way to get some extra hitting practice in. It takes about four or five hours when it's all said and done, with the food break and everything. The schools do as much as they can, but we have to raise our own funds as well. It's just a great way to get some much-needed funding, and the girls have a blast. It's some good team bonding."
Each girl gets her own personalized T-shirt, which she'll look good in picking up the equipment at the end of the event if she's on the losing team. And with 14 players on this year's team, unless some former Lady Mustangs show up to help make it eight-on-eight, it looks like Limburg and assistant coach April Richards may have to find their cleats and oil up their gloves.
"I'll have to warm up quite a bit," Limburg said.
Bledsoe County won McMinn County's 88 Stitches tournament over the weekend at Athens Regional Park and Red Bank was champion of Cleveland's Lady Raider Classic at Lee University.
Bledsoe defeated Sequatchie County 2-0 in its championship game, capping a 5-0 record in the tournament. The Lady Warriors outscored their opponents 39-6 and had 54 hits in 26 innings played.
Lydia Ritchie led with 12 hits, including a home run, and also had a 3-0 pitching record with 35 strikeouts and got the save in the final. Faith Forgey had a 2-0 pitching record and contributed two home runs and Haley Fugate homered three times.
"We've got the pitching this year," Bledsoe County coach Ricky Ritchie said. "The past three years we've been needing the team batting average to go up. We've been focusing a lot on our hitting."
After going 2-1 in pool play, Red Bank beat East Ridge 9-2 in its elimination semifinal, then defeated Midway 12-1 for the title.
Allison Walker was the winning pitcher in both games Saturday and had a 3-1 pitching record for the weekend. Kenzie Cagle was one of three Lionettes to go 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored, but the only one with two triples. Dani Usher was 3-for-3 with four RBIs and a run scored against the Lady Pioneers.
"We had been moving kids around to different positions, but now we feel like we've got a set lineup," Red Bank coach Mandi Munn said.
Munn added that a key aspect in the victory over East Ridge was that the bottom half of the order did most of the damage.
"We finally have some confidence in our hitting," she said.