ATHENS, Tenn. — Pitcher Kelsey Nunley had to sit and watch the last couple of games last season as Soddy-Daisy managed to win the TSSAA Class AAA softball championship without her. Coach Clifford Kirk thinks because of that, the junior right-hander has a renewed enthusiasm this postseason.
Nunley threw a five-hitter Tuesday at McMinn County and the Lady Trojans defeated Ooltewah 4-0 in the District 5 final.
Ooltewah edged Rhea County 3-2 in the losers-bracket final earlier.
Cookeville plays Coffee County in the District 6-AAA final today at Sparta starting at 6 p.m. EDT. Cookeville must win twice.
As a result of being champion, Soddy-Daisy (36-6) will host the District 6 runner-up in a Region 3 semifinal Monday. Ooltewah (28-13) will play at the District 6 champion.
“We wanted to play at home,” Kirk said. “The kids do a better job at home. We’ve got a nice facility to play on. We wanted somebody to come see us.”
As for Nunley, she hasn’t allowed a run since Central scored off her 31 innings ago. She had nine strikeouts and no walks.
“She’s back,” Kirk said.
Cassidy Hackney was 3-for-3 at the top of the Lady Trojans’ order. She scored their first run and drove in their third with a bunt single.
Other key performers were Ashley Cheney and Kali Henderson, who each went 2-for-3 with each hit an opposite-field single to the right side. Cheney had two RBIs and Henderson drove in one and scored one.
“We worked on it,” Kirk said of going the other way. “We got a little impatient sometimes, but for the most part we were on the ball. Those two actually waited on a pitch to hit and went with it.”
Ooltewah scored the go-ahead run against Rhea County Abby Daniels’ single in the third inning. Taylor Hicks’ two-RBI single in the second had tied it. Daniels was the only Lady Owl with three hits in the two games.
“We’ve not hit. We were playing really well until the tornadoes came,” Ooltewah coach Norma Nelson said of the April 27 disaster. “We ended up with a lot of off days because of the weather. We’ve beaten everybody but Soddy-Daisy, but the bats just haven’t come around.”
The Lady Golden Eagles parlayed three hits and two errors into two runs in the top of the first inning. Paige Mason, who tripled in the fifth after the Lady Owls had just turned a double play, singled in one of the runs.
In addition to playing third-seeded Ooltewah close, fifth-seeded Rhea County (15-17) beat No. 2-seeded Walker Valley and avenged an opening-round loss to fourth-seeded McMinn County during the tournament.
“They did nothing but improve, game after game after game,” said first-year Rhea coach Cara Stiles, whose 15 players are all underclassmen. “I’m very proud of them.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.