Soddy-Daisy's Olivia Williams embodied the true spirit of playing on an all-star team in Wednesday's Tennessee-Georgia high school all-star softball classic at Frost Stadium.
Williams has been Soddy-Daisy's regular second baseman the last two seasons, but she was inserted into right field in the fifth inning of the first game of the doubleheader. Then with two on and two out in the bottom of the sixth and final inning, Northwest Whitfield's Mykeah Johnson sent a screaming line drive her way. One sliding catch off the top of the grass later, the Tennessee team had won the opener 4-2.
Tennessee got a dazzling pitching performance from Walker Valley's Sidney Hooper and won the second six-inning game 2-0.
Tennessee coach Cara Stiles, whose 2013 season was her last at East Hamilton because she's about to embark on a year-long gospel mission, recalled seeing Williams play outfield before. It turned out it was when she was a sophomore.
"I don't even know why I was out there," said Williams, who plans to walk on at Chattanooga State. "I guess they needed more people who could play outfield."
Bledsoe County's Lydia Ritchie, who is headed to play at Berry College in Rome, Ga., was the winning pitcher in the first game and was chosen Tennessee's player of the night. She threw the first four innings, allowing four hits and no walks while striking out 10.
Georgia managed a run off of her when Chattooga's Karlie Jarrett singled, Calhoun's Shanta McDaniel doubled and Heritage's Jesslyn Stockard singled in succession starting the fourth. Jarrett has signed with Georgia Highlands and McDaniel has signed with Chattanooga State.
Stockard and high school teammate Savannah Goldsmith, who was chosen Georgia's player of the night with one of her two hits being an RBI double, have signed with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. There they will join Arts & Sciences' Liana Rodrigues, who pitched the last two innings for Tennessee in the first game.
East Hamilton's Shaliyah Geathers, Marion County's Brooke Baxter and Central's Brook Womack -- all leadoff batters on their school teams for multiple seasons -- each had two hits in the first game for Tennessee. Geathers has signed with Tennessee, Baxter has signed with East Tennessee State and Womack has signed with Southern Illinois.
"This is fun, but it's hard making out a lineup," said Stiles, who was assisted by Whitwell's head coach, Grace Pickett. "Me and Grace were talking before it started and she said, 'Don't you wish you had this kind of talent to pick from?'"
One of Womack's hits was a hustling double, and she also had a steal of third and scored twice.
"She's a stud," said Stiles, who became the first to be a player and coach in the 16-year event. "She's just so smart. She's a smart baserunner; she's aggressive. She's always looking to one-up somebody. That's the best kind of athlete to have on your team. She runs like I do. That's why I like watching her."
Hooper gave up a leadoff off single in the second game and nothing else. The Austin Peay signee sat down the next 18 in order, three on strikeouts, and was selected the most valuable player on the night.
"Everything was working good tonight," Hooper said. "My curveball kept getting up a little, but that was about it. After that first hit I told myself I've just got to go back to work now."
Williams and Polk County's Sydney Sloan each doubled for Tennessee in the second game. The one by Sloan, who has signed with Chattanooga State, narrowly missed being a home run and she later scored.
Northwest Whitfield's Emily Boyd and Ringgold's Brittany Portwood, a West Georgia Technical College signee, were the losing pitchers. Tennessee got to Boyd, who has signed with Ole Miss, for seven hits in four innings in the opener, and two of the three runs she allowed were earned. She had six strikeouts and no walks, but threw three wild pitches.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com.