Little did anyone know that Allie Jones' home run with two outs in the bottom of the first inning would end the scoring in the final of the first Ooltewah Invitational high school softball tournament. But thanks to junior right-hander Cameron Baltimore and her defense, it did.
Jones' swing and Baltimore's three-hitter were big keys in the Lady Owls' 1-0 championship victory over Collierville at The Summit of Softball Complex on Saturday.
Ooltewah (16-5) had taken some lumps recently in District 5-AAA play but rebounded and defeated neighboring rival East Hamilton 3-2 on Thursday and beat Polk County the same day to get the tournament started.
After rain washed out Friday's play, the Lady Owls returned to the field Saturday and were particularly stingy in giving up runs.
"We're making better contact, even though we only scored one run in that game," Ooltewah first-year coach Jon Massey said of his team's recent turnaround. "We've been pitching it well, as a whole. We're not bad defensively. We just struggled putting the ball in play the first couple of weeks. Maybe we were trying to be too perfect on the ball."
Jones was perfect on the ball in the first inning, sending a towering drive over the fence in right-center. Then, from center field, she watched as Baltimore did her thing.
"She was working that outside corner and getting those calls," Jones said. "That was one of the best games I've seen her pitch. I mean she was right there on the outside corner. Why not stay out there?"
The Lady Owls had other opportunities to score, loading the bases with one out in the third and again with two out in the sixth. They also got the first two on in the fifth.
Meanwhile, Collierville (22-4-1) struggled to produce baserunners but did load the bases with one out in the sixth before Baltimore induced two popouts. The Lady Dragons got the tying runner to second base in the final inning, but Baltimore ended the game with her second strikeout. She did not allow a walk.
"They had one line drive to left-center that went for a single. That was their hardest-hit ball," Massey said of Kelsey Gross's leadoff shot off the fence in the second inning. "They hit a few lazy fly balls, but Cameron is at her best when she keeps the ball down and they get themselves out hitting three-hoppers and we make the play."
Ooltewah's Summer Williams went 2-for-3 and was the only player in the game with more than one hit.
"We've got a new coach and a couple of freshman starters," Jones said. "It's a new year and we're trying to get some chemistry. I think we've gotten a lot closer; we're starting to believe in ourselves as a team and trust each other. Winning this tournament should really boost our confidence."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.