MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Grace Academy moved one step closer to a return trip to the TSSAA Class A state softball final by defeating Coalfield 8-0 in one of Tuesday’s opening-round games at Starplex No. 4.
Grace (38-7-1) will play Decatur County Riverside today at 6 p.m. EDT.
Lacye Walker led things off for the Lady Golden Eagles with a home run on Lindsey Fadnek’s first pitch. It was all Grace from there.
“That was huge,” Grace coach Tina Walker said. “She’s a hard thrower and we were a little bit nervous going in. We knew we were going to have to play ball. When Lacye led off with that home run, it relaxed us all.”
Walker homered again in the fourth inning, and in between she doubled in a run in the second. Kaitlyn Eldridge’s single through the middle later in the fourth made it 4-0.
“Score early and often, that was the plan,” Coach Walker said. “We scored in every inning but the third.”
Lexie Dean was 3-for-5 for the Lady Golden Eagles and scored a run. Eldridge finished 2-for-5 with 2 RBIs.
* Marion County 12, Unaka 0: In Class A at McKnight No. 3, the Lady Warriors looked like a veteran state-tournament team despite having not qualified since 1994.
Marion County (35-8) will play Cornersville tonight at about 8 EDT.
A walk and an error on a sacrifice preceded Taylor Brown’s two-run double that sparked a five-run first inning.
“We told the girls it was important to get on the board early,” Marion coach Chris Thomas said. “You want to put pressure on people. Scoring five in the first makes it a little easier to work defensively.”
The score stayed that way until the sixth, when the Lady Warriors ended it with a seven-run outburst. Kelsey Thomas walked starting the rally and capped it with a two-run double.
“Their mindset is pretty good,” Coach Thomas said of his players. “Right now they’re determined. They know what they want to accomplish. Hopefully they can.”
Heather Richards threw a three-hitter with eight strikeouts and was one of five Lady Warriors with two hits.
* Gibbs 13, Bledsoe County 1: In Class AA at McKnight No. 1, a seven-run first inning sparked state-tournament fixture Gibbs (42-10) past the first-year qualifier.
Lydia Ritchie’s leadoff home run was the bright spot for Bledsoe.
“First-time nerves,” was all Lady Warriors coach Janice Ritchie could attribute it to. “We came back a little bit better after the first inning. Maybe we just had to get the bugs out. We can just forget about this one and move on. We’re not going home.”
Bledsoe (27-11) will play Chester County today at about 1 p.m. EDT.
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.