Today's Tennessee baseball postseason schedule
Soddy-Daisy (11-22) at Cookeville (32-1-1), 7
Coffee County (13-23) at Ooltewah (22-11), 7
Sequatchie County (15-14) at Murfreesboro Central Magnet (22-15), 6
Upperman (22-10) at Bledsoe County (14-10), 7
Meigs County (19-8) vs. East Hamilton (24-12) at Chattanooga State, 6
Red Bank (16-18) at Sequoyah (25-8), 6
South Pittsburg (27-10) at Silverdale Baptist (23-2-1), 5
Arts & Sciences (10-17) at Marion County (19-12), 7
Ooltewah, Bledsoe County, Silverdale Baptist and Marion County earned the right to host regional baseball semifinals today.
So too did East Hamilton. Yet while the others are playing at home, the best East Hamilton can do is host at Chattanooga State, which has become the baseball Hurricanes' home away from home.
"We're very grateful to [athletic director] Kim Smith and [baseball coach] Greg Dennis for allowing us to use their facilities," East Hamilton coach Steve Garland said. "It's a nice place for high school kids to get to play ball. We've enjoyed it and made the most of it but we hope one day to host one of these games on our campus."
East Hamilton is in its fourth year of varsity competition and the Hurricanes will be making their third region semifinal appearance tonight.
The baseball, tennis and track teams are pretty much the last of the school's teams without home facilities and the baseball team and its boosters have $148,500 committed toward field construction. But depending on varying costs analyses, they still need a minimum of $75,000 more and that cost could go as high as $150,000 more.
East Hamilton has been depending on the Ooltewah and East Brainerd Youth Associations just to have a play to play and they have paid a nominal fee to play their home games at Chattanooga State.
"We to the point where we'd be quite content with the bare amenities and somewhere to practice," Garland said.
While East Hamilton is in the third region game of the school's brief history, this is the first in which they'll participate as a district champion.
Bledsoe County, a school with a history that goes back much further, celebrated its first district championship last week also.
"We are pretty sure Bledsoe has never played for [a district championship] and we knew we had never won one," Warriors coach Dustin Smith said. "There are guys that are older than me that will say, 'We didn't even have a team one year I was in school.'
"It means a great deal to the community. We have had more people at our games this year than ever before. I was receiving congratulatory texts from numbers I didn't even know. We took a victory lap around town after the championship game and people were out on the road waving and cheering, and it was sort of late. We all know this is a football town, but to see them rally around the baseball team was really something special. The kids have worked their tails off for this and I'm so proud of them."
While Bledsoe folks were elated, Soddy-Daisy's baseball boosters enjoyed similar feelings after the Trojans, battling through the season without a single senior, bumped off a pair of higher-seeded teams, got to 5-AAA's winners-bracket final and then rebounded after a loss to Ooltewah with a region appearance-clinching victory over Cleveland.
"When we got beat by Ooltewah the first two [district] games of the year, we talked," Trojans coach Jared Hensley said. "I thought about running them but then went in the opposite direction. I wasn't mad, but I wanted them to get better and I told them it would happen if they were committed. I thought they'd do it in about four weeks and it wound up taking nine, but I'm really proud of them."
While Ooltewah is at home to host District 6 runner-up Cookeville, Soddy-Daisy will travel to District 6 champion Cookeville, which has an astounding 32-1-1 record.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," Hensley said. "Our strength has become our will. While our pitching, defense and offense all were great in the district, what got us over the hump was our will to win."
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...