Grace Academy gave District 5-A regular-season champion Arts & Sciences a scare in the winners-bracket final of the District 5-A high school softball tournament. Friday at Warner Park, the Lady Golden Eagles sent out an alarm.
The Lady Patriots had handled their business against district competition on the way to the program's first regular-season championship, handling every team including Grace through 10 games. But the Lady Golden Eagles' offense started clicking early in the first game of the final and they ended up defeating CSAS 8-5, forcing a second championship game.
The teams are scheduled to play tonight at Grace at 7 to decide the title.
The District 6 championship is scheduled this afternoon at 1 with Sale Creek's third-seeded Lady Panthers taking on top-seeded Marion County, which they defeated 7-3 in Friday's winners-bracket final. The District 5 champion will host the District 6 runner-up and the District 6 champion will host the District 5 runner-up in Region 3 semifinals Monday.
CSAS (25-5-1), which has never won a district-tournament title, and Grace (16-15) played twice in the regular season with an 8-1 victory being the closest game. The Lady Golden Eagles, who are rebuilding after winning their first state championship, led 2-1 in Wednesday's winners-bracket final, but a seven-run sixth inning did them in.
They seemed to shake off that late-inning collapse and got to starting pitcher Liana Rodrigues for two runs in the first inning Friday and chased her from the game after Brittany McGaughey walked and Stephanie Hernandez reached on a bunt single.
"In the beginning I think we executed very well," said Grace coach Tina Walker, whose team went on to score four times in the second and once in the third. "We talked to the girls about what we wanted to do against Rodrigues, who's a great pitcher. Each time we've played them we've played a little better and a little better. Today it just clicked."
The Lady Patriots cut the deficit to 7-2 in the bottom of the third. They added single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh but handed Grace a run in the sixth with two throwing errors.
"I don't know that it was just one thing," CSAS coach Kaity Holloway said. "We got too overly excited. We over-analyzed things. That's something we haven't done. I don't think complacency is the word to use. There's such a thing as wanting it too bad. We over-analyzed things and started to get out of our element. That's what we did."
Tory Helton went 2-for-4 with a triple, three RBIs and two runs scored for the Lady Golden Eagles. Savannah Jeno, Sierra Nunley and winning pitcher Alex Smith were also 2-for-4. Jeno had a two-run double. Nunley doubled, scored three times and drove in a run and Smith had an RBI.
Brittany Patmon was 3-for-3 with a double, a sacrifice fly and two RBIs for the Lady Patriots. Brianna Taylor, who relieved Rodrigues, ended up 2-for-4 with an RBI.
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.