Soddy-Daisy softball coach has fond memories rekindled by Spring Fling field

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - As she watched her team file into the home side dugout, unpacking the softball essentials - bats, balls, gloves, batting helmets and cowbells - Soddy-Daisy coach Kelsey Nunley-Moore wasn't prepared for the memories she would also unpack Wednesday.

For three of her four seasons as a high school player, Starplex Field No. 1 became Soddy-Daisy's home field during the TSSAA Spring Fling as Nunley-Moore helped her team win state championships on that reddish-brown dirt in 2010 and 2012.

So as she stepped back on the field for the first time since striking out the final batter she faced a decade ago as a senior, her thoughts turned to those memories - particularly those attached to Clifford Kirk, the coaching legend who passed away in late 2020.

"I've thought a lot about Clifford these last couple of weeks, especially once we got to the state tournament," Nunley-Moore said after the Lady Trojans beat Brighton 6-0 before being eliminated later in the day with a 9-3 loss to Gibbs. "I was kind of sad when we found out our first game would be on another field, so coming back here today was a good feeling.

"Just walking back up to it and seeing the field brought back so many great memories with my teammates, and of course playing for Clifford. I wish I could call him now and just talk to him."

Kirk, who won more than 1,100 games and was named Tennessee's softball coach of the year nine times in a career that spanned more than 30 years, won eight of his 10 state titles with Soddy-Daisy. The other two came with Hixson, and he also guided Sale Creek to the state tourney twice.

The 2012 Lady Trojans with Nunley-Moore as their ace are still considered one of the Chattanooga area's greatest prep softball teams. They were ranked in the top five of two national polls after a 52-2 season, capped by Nunley-Moore striking out 12 batters in a 7-0 win over Daniel Boone.

Immediately after that final out, the future Kentucky and Southeastern Conference standout gave a couple of fist pumps in the air and walked off the field before being swamped by teammates to celebrate. When the Lady Trojans finished off Wednesday's win against Brighton, she again raised a fist in the air before congratulating her players.

In that first-round game in the losers bracket, Soddy-Daisy scored all six runs in the first inning as Ryli Renfro, who has been on a hitting tear of late, drove in two and Regan Rowan and Jenna Sims each plated one. Taylor Lloyd allowed just one hit and struck out 11 batters in the win, and the Lady Trojans did not commit an error - which was their downfall in Tuesday's 3-2 loss to Lexington, which entered the tourney 45-1.

But later Wednesday, errors again proved to be the team's downfall when five miscues opened the door as Gibbs scored four runs in the second inning and five more in the fourth to put the game away. Renfro did add her 16th home run of the season, but it wasn't enough.

The season-ending loss came on Starplex Field No. 3, but the Lady Trojans' second-year coach admitted that beyond being proud of the way her team battled, she was also glad to add another good memory on nostalgic Field No. 1.

"I'm glad we got to play one here," Nunley-Moore said. "I don't know if anyone else remembers how special this field is for our program, but I do and it was great to be back out here again."

Loretto 3, Meigs County 2: The Lady Tigers were eliminated from the Class 2A tournament when Loretto snapped a 2-2 tie with a sixth-inning run. Sierra Howard and Madilyn Johnson each went 2-for-3 at the plate, accounting for Meigs' only hits, with Howard driving in both runs.

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.