Whitwell, one of two Class A teams among the 12 to enter the Choo Choo Lady Owls high school softball tournament, was among those that went 2-0 in Friday's pool play at the Summit of Softball Complex.
The Lady Tigers came back and edged Class AAA McMinn County 8-7 in six innings, then held on and defeated Class AA Central 4-3 in five.
Coffee County also went 2-0, defeating Soddy-Daisy 5-2 in five innings before winning 7-0 over Bradley Central in six innings.
Wet grounds from morning storms caused the start of the tournament to be delayed an hour and a half. Today's play was originally scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. but has been moved to 10. Single-elimination is set to start at 1 in the afternoon with the final slated for 7.
Whitwell was down a run in the bottom of the sixth against the Lady Cherokees but got run-scoring singles from Alyssa Coppinger and Storm Roberts with none out in the bottom of the inning to win it. The Lady Tigers led Central by two before giving up a run in the Lady Purple Pounders' last at-bat but managed to hold on.
"They had beaten us three times already this year, pretty badly," Whitwell coach Grace Pickett said of the Lady Pounders. "We came out and hit the ball better. Actually at times we've struggled hitting with runners on. We were better at that. I'm proud of the girls."
Coppinger, a sophomore who recently committed to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, sparked the Lady Tigers' offense. Batting leadoff, she went 4-for-5 with a triple and scored five runs.
Riley Long was Whitwell's winning pitcher in both games, coming on in relief against McMinn County.
Coffee County batted 10 times on the day and scored at least one run in eight of the innings. Brianna Jones didn't need much support in the second game, as she pitched a no-hitter with 13 strikeouts.
Ginny Clayborne led the Lady Raiders' offensive effort, going 2-for-3 in each game. She homered and had two RBIs against Bradley's Bearettes after driving in a run and scoring a run against long-standing state-playoff nemesis Soddy-Daisy.
"Our pitching and defense is usually there, but offensively we sometimes struggle," Coffee County coach Terry Floyd said. "We were patient and waited for a strike to come around and put the bat on the ball."
Ooltewah and Farragut won their first games of the day and were among the teams playing late games.
The Lady Owls had a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Bledsoe County, getting a game-winning RBI single from winning pitcher Taylor Hicks with one out in the sixth and final inning.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
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.