published Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Lady Tigers win two with drama

The winners-bracket final between two nationally ranked teams started two and a half hours late in the TCCAA/NJCAA Region VII softball tournament Tuesday night at Chattanooga State.

That's because No. 2 Chattanooga State had to go 12 innings to get past fourth-seeded Columbia State, 8-5, in the first game of the day -- after Andrea Dalton homered in the seventh to prevent an upset in regulation. That 3-hour, 20-minute contest led to delayed gratification for the top-seeded Lady Tigers against 15th-ranked Volunteer State in their night meeting.

They delayed almost as long as possible, in fact, overcoming a three-run deficit to win 5-4 with two runs in the seventh inning.

Chattanooga State (55-4) plays today at 2 p.m. for the region championship and a trip to St. George, Utah, for the NJCAA Division I national tournament. Vol State, which made that trip last year and is ranked 15th now, will play at noon against the winner of Tuesday's late losers-bracket game. The noon winner must beat the Lady Tigers twice.

Down 4-1, they scored on an error in the fifth inning and on Andie Johnson's double in the sixth to get within one. They were down to their last strike in the seventh when Lacye Walker blasted a tying homer, and then Chelsea Burgess reached on an error and eventually wound up on second. Dalton, whose second homer in the day's first game gave Chatt State an 8-3 lead over Columbia State in inning 12, then was walked, but Beth Breeden singled up the middle for the winning RBI.

Motlow State rallied from an early three-run deficit to beat Chattanooga State 8-5 in the day's first baseball game, and Dyersburg State -- which put the host Tigers in the losers bracket Monday -- stunned nationally 10th-ranked Walters State with an 8-2 setback. Southwest Tennessee then eliminated Jackson State, 5-4, despite being outhit 9-6.

Fourth-ranked Columbia State also was victimized in the other bracket, falling 3-2 to Vol State on Michael Massi's eighth-inning two-run homer. Vol's Pioneers play at 7 tonight against the afternoon winner between Southwest and Columbia, after Walters faces Motlow at 10 a.m. to set up a 4 p.m. matchup with Dyersburg.

Zach Zarzour was 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored for Chattanooga State (39-19), and Jordy McDonald and Matt Sorrow each had two hits and an RBI. Brandon Johnston, Kilgore Gailmard, Brett Mansfield and Brett Guzay each was 2-for-4 with an RBI for Motlow, which had four singles before a Thomas Lundborg double and a passed-ball score in a four-run seventh inning.

Dyersburg jumped on Walters with five first-inning runs featuring a two-run homer by Harold Cannon and RBI doubles from Clay Hughes and Seth Hinson. Cannon's fourth-inning single made it 8-0. Josh Coker was 2-for-2 with a two-run single in the ninth for the Senators.

Wes Parson struck out 10 batters and Dalton Martinez was 3-for-3 with an RBI and two runs for Jackson, but the Generals gave up three unearned runs.

Columbia's Lady Chargers couldn't start their softball elimination game with the energy they had in nearly beating Chatt State, and they lost 9-7 to Southwest after falling behind 9-0 early. Haylee Power's second-inning grand slam paced the Lady Saluqis.

Walters rebounded froma 5-0 loss to Vol State -- held to one hit by Shelby Jo Fenter -- to beat Cleveland State 10-2 as Latasha Rectonwald and Courtney Davis hit two-run homers. Maura Ditto had a two-run single in defeat.

Antoinette Jenkins was 3-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs and Ali Hart had three RBIs for Vol State against Walters.

Dalton was 3-for-6 with her three RBIs for Chattanooga State against Columbia, when Courtney DeLay was 2-for-4 and Marina Wilkerson and Shelby Johnson each was 2-for-6. Shortstop Ashley Evans was 3-for-3 for the Lady Chargers before being ejected for a hard bump on runner Shelby Johnson at second base.

Columbia was outhit 15-7 but was helped by five Lady Tigers errors.

In the 12th, DeLay started on second in the international tiebreaker format, and MeQuilla Franklin had a bunt hit and took second. Wilkerson singled DeLay home and Walker hit a one-out, two-run double, and Dalton hit her long homer with two outs for an 8-3 lead for pitcher of the year Ashley Czechner.

Dalton almost hauled in a long shot by Evans' sub, Lacie Patterson, in the bottom of the inning, but the ball bounced off her glove over the fence for a homer that made the final margin 8-5.

Contact Ron Bush at rbush@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6291.

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