Not only were runs hard to come by in Wednesday's Region 3-AAA high school softball championship game at Soddy-Daisy, baserunners were hard to come by.
If not for two Coffee County errors on the same play and a failed squeeze attempt by the Lady Raiders in the seventh inning, pitchers Kelsey Nunley and Brianna Jones looked as though they could've put up zeroes all night. Instead, the Lady Trojans squeaked by 1-0.
Soddy-Daisy will host Riverdale in a state sectional on Friday at 7 p.m. Coffee County will play at Region 4 winner Lincoln County, which defeated Riverdale 7-2 on Wednesday.
Jones had held the Lady Trojans to one runner through five innings and that was Morgan Bailey's two-out single in the third. Their next runner was leadoff batter Cassidy Hackney in the sixth, also on a two-out single.
Olivia Williams then hit a dribbler toward the right side of the pitcher's circle where Jones and another infielder collided and allowed the ball to roll past them. Hackney spotted third base unoccupied, rounded second and headed that way.
A throw was made to a late-arriving infielder, who then tried to get Williams heading for second. But the throw sailed high and Hackney was able to score.
"When I saw her throw it," Hackney said, "I was going, whether it ended up in the outfield or not."
Nunley ended up pitching a no-hitter, but Juli Layne reached leading off the seventh thanks to a high throw on her infield grounder. She then took second as the ball was being returned to Nunley in the circle.
After a sacrifice bunt, Coffee County coach Terry Floyd called for another bunt, hoping to score Layne when the throw went to first. Instead third baseman Hackney fielded the ball and saw Layne already headed home and threw to Bailey for the out.
"We had an idea that was coming," Soddy-Daisy coach Clifford Kirk said. "I told Hackney 'Don't get too far in, but be ready for it.' We worked on that. I don't know if they could've scored on the throw to first because there may not have been one. Our first responsibility is to hold that runner at third."
Nunley ended it by getting a groundout. She totaled 12 strikeouts and the Lady Raiders' only runner before the seventh was the senior right-hander's only walk -- to Taylor Gullet with one out in the second.
"Brianna pitched her heart out," Floyd said of his right-hander who struck out eight and did not issue a walk. "The good thing is she's a freshman and she's going to be around three more years. We made some bad decisions and in May I'd rather lucky than good anytime. We made two mental mistakes there that cost us the ballgame, or at least kept us from tying it up."
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.