The softball teams at Walker Valley and Ooltewah appear to be so evenly matched the last couple of seasons, they could've played 25 times and odds are the series would end 13-12.
At Soddy-Daisy on Tuesday, they met for a fourth time this season. The 2012 series will end 2-2. The runs against each other end up 10-10.
But Tuesday's was an elimination game -- the District 5-AAA tournament's losers-bracket final -- and only Walker Valley will be moving on to region play thanks to a 4-0 victory.
The Lady Mustangs (25-9), who beat Rhea County 3-0 to get to the losers' final, will play regular-season champion Soddy-Daisy in today's final at 6 p.m. Another championship game would follow if Walker Valley wins.
The Region 3 tournament is scheduled to begin Monday with district-tournament champions playing at home.
The Lady Mustangs and Lady Owls also split in the regular season last year, but Ooltewah, which was seeded third and Walker Valley second, won the only postseason meeting and moved on to the region along with Soddy-Daisy. This year it was the Lady Mustangs who were third-seeded.
"We knew they weren't going to give it to us," said Walker Valley coach Lauren Limburg, whose team had lost 4-0 to Ooltewah on Saturday in a winners-bracket semifinal. "The girls knew they had to do it to keep our season alive. Everybody believed in each other and gave it 100 percent. It was all 16 of them. Everybody contributed to those wins."
Perhaps no Lady Mustang did more than junior pitcher Sidney Hooper, who threw both shutouts Tuesday, allowing eight hits and four walks while striking out eight.
"I can't say enough about Sidney," Limburg said. "She fought so hard and she's such a hard worker. She continued to believe, and the other girls believed in her."
Three of Walker Valley's runs against Ooltewah (27-11) came in the fifth, which started with a single by Hallie Davis and was aided by a throwing error. Leslie Still and Mackenzie Elrod hit back-to-back RBI doubles off losing pitcher Taylor Baird and Rachel Percy added a run-scoring single in the seventh.
"She's pitched so well against us," Limburg said of Baird. "She's hit her spots and moved the ball well. We were blessed to be able to get some hits with runners in scoring position."
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.