published Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Grace clinches fifth title in row

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    Grace Academy's Lexie Dean rounds second during the 5-0 win over Arts and Sciences Tuesday at home. Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press

It looked like easy math for Grace Academy’s Lady Golden Eagles on Tuesday. Two early runs, plus Lacye Walker in the pitching circle, equaled the District 5-A high school softball regular-season championship.

Grace hosted and defeated Arts & Sciences 5-0 and in doing so again clinched the No. 1 seeding for the district tournament.

“That’s our fifth district championship,” Lady Golden Eagles coach Tina Walker said of their successive title run. “What a great achievement for these girls.

“CSAS is much better. They’ve been beating some pretty good teams. Getting those two runs early allowed us to relax and play the game. We have learned that you can’t play well when you’re uptight.”

Lacye, the coach’s daughter, was in the middle of the first-inning rally. She singled in Lexie Dean from second base before scoring from third on Kaitlyn Eldridge’s single.

After Ashunti Cooper from CSAS (14-12, 2-3) reached on an infield single to start the game, the only other baserunner the senior left-hander allowed was on an error in the fourth inning.

“Two runs we can do,” CSAS coach Michelle Meyners said of her players not hanging their heads about the early deficit, “but getting two runs against Lacye, you’ve got your work cut out for you. She was on today.”

Walker surpassed the 1,000-strikeout mark in her career Monday against Boyd-Buchanan and now has 1,018 after striking out 12 Lady Patriots. Mom has it mapped out that if her daughter can average 10 strikeouts per game and the team can go 11-0 the rest of the way, which would mean winning the state championship, she would surpass last year’s total of 291.

“She’s set a goal of 300 strikeouts this season,” Coach Walker said. “She has a ways to go. She is really working hard toward it.”

Grace (30-7-1, 7-0) padded its lead when Reagan Schrader followed Jessie Parker’s two-out walk in the third with a home run into the wind down the left-field line. It was her fourth of the season.

Leadoff batter Dean reached base safely all four times, including on a double in the second inning, and she had a stolen base. Winter Simpson went 2-for-3 and scored in the sixth — the second time Dean reached on an error.

about Kelley Smiddie...

Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com.

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