Grace Academy has won the last six District 5-A regular-season high school softball championships and had five district-tournament titles to go with them coming into Thursday's game against Silverdale Baptist Academy.
Once again the Lady Golden Eagles followed through with what they had done in the regular season. They made it six consecutive tournament titles by defeating the Lady Seahawks 9-2 at Grace Academy.
"It's every bit as thrilling as the first time," Grace coach Tina Walker said. "These seniors mean a lot to me."
Grace (24-7) is scheduled to host Whitwell at 7 p.m. Monday in a Region 3 semifinal. Marion County will host Silverdale (16-13) in the other at a time to be determined.
The Lady Golden Eagles, who had beaten them 1-0 in Monday's winners-bracket final, didn't put the Lady Seahawks away Thursday until their last two at-bats, despite taking a 2-0 lead after the first inning. Loren Hilton's homer down the left-field line off in the top of the next inning evened it right back.
But winning pitcher Tory Helton kept Silverdale in check the rest of the way. She ended up giving up six hits and no walks, although she hit one batter, and struck out four.
"Actually it was a good pitch," Walker said of the home run ball. "She tomahawked that thing out of here. I don't know how she did it. She's strong. That made me a little nervous.
"Tory took it a little personal. She settled herself back down. She listens well and is so easy to coach."
Kaitlyn Eldridge singled, stole second and scored the tiebreaking run in the fourth -- an inning that included two sacrifice bunts with Savannah Jeno's driving in the run. Grace had two infield singles in its three-run fifth and a bunt single after back-to-back errors in its three-run sixth.
"We wanted to put the pressure on them," Walker said. "That's what we were trying to do was create some things and make some little holes. Then we had our big boppers come up and bang it."
Bethany Cowart ended up 3-for-4 with a triple, a double, three RBIs and two runs scored. Reagan Schrader was 2-for-4, both doubles, and she drove in a run and scored three. Leadoff batter Lexie Dean was 2-for-4 with a double, a stolen base and two runs scored.
Silverdale coach Tim Couch praised losing pitcher Katie Henderson for her work in the tournament all week.
"They've done a great job buliding a great program," Silverdale coach Tim Couch said of the Lady Golden Eagles. "We're trying to get there. We were tired and when things started going bad, we dropped our heads. If we want to be a great team, we can't do that. We're young and have got a lot of inexperience. We've got to get out of that."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653.
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.