published Saturday, May 28th, 2011

Grace repeats as Class A softball runner-up

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Grace Academy’s softball team again will be bringing a trophy back to Chattanooga from the TSSAA Spring Fling, but again not the one the Lady Golden Eagles coveted.

Seeking to become the first Grace girls’ team to win a state championship in any sport, the Lady Golden Eagles came up short in the Class A final for the second consecutive season.

Decatur County Riverside defeated Grace 10-0 in six innings Friday at Starplex No. 4.

Both of the Lady Golden Eagles’ losses in the double-elimination tournament were to the Lady Panthers. The big edge was that Riverside had different winning pitchers, Ericca McCormic in the final, while Lacye Walker suffered both losses.

“The other night some of their batters saw our other pitcher five or six times,” Riverside coach Michael Box said of Brooke Kennedy, who pitched Wednesday’s 5-4 11-inning victory. “We wanted them to see somebody different.”

Walker came out of the championship game with Grace (42-9-1) trailing 4-0 after having walked the first batter in what turned out to be a three-run fifth.

“She ran out of gas. She flat could not pitch anymore. She fought through that first game but didn’t have a whole lot of stuff then,” said Grace coach and Lacye’s mother Tina Walker, referring to a 3-2 eight-inning victory over Cornersville in the losers-bracket final earlier in the day. “She was totally worn out. She gave it all she had.

“They’re a very good team. You’ve got to give them credit. It’s hard to come back through the losers bracket with one pitcher.”

Kennedy was 2-for-3, both doubles, and her three-run hit in the third inning got the Lady Panthers’ offense started. Brooklyn Taylor was 2-for-2 with two RBIs.

Siera Nunley was 2-for-2 for Grace.

“It was a phenomenal season, no doubt about it,” Coach Walker said. “We had so much adversity but worked through everything. They did everything they had to do to get here.”

Decatur County Riverside (35-4) had one previous state-tournament trip and went 0-2 in 1996.

District 15 now owns five of the last six Class A titles. Trinity Christian won the other four.

n Grace Academy 3, Cornersville 2: With Grace trailing by a run with one out in the bottom of the eighth, Walker lined a 1-2 pitch to right field for a triple. Lexie Dean followed with a single to tie the game, and after Dean stole second, Kaitlyn Eldridge’s two-out single down the left-field line plated the game-winner.

“I knew my team needed me to get on before that triple,” Walker said. “I kept thinking with two strikes, if I strike out we’re probably done. Once I got on, we got some huge hits behind me to bring us back.”

Cornersville had runners on third and second with one out in the sixth, but Walker struck out consecutive batters.

After the Lady Bulldogs loaded the bases on an error and back-to-back walks, Makayla Campbell’s two-out single up the middle scored the go-ahead run for Cornersville in the eighth.

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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