First-year Sale Creek coach and longtime softball coach Clifford Kirk is recovering at a local hospital from a collapse he suffered Wednesday during the seventh inning of the Region 3-A final against Whitwell at Sale Creek.
Sale Creek principal Tobin Davidson was among those who visited Kirk on Thursday morning and said he was alert and talking, even offering some coaching instruction for the Lady Panthers for when play resumed that afternoon. Davidson confirmed it was a "cardiac event" that Kirk suffered. The family is awaiting results from medical tests.
Operating on an estimated four hours of sleep, Kirk's assistant coach, Kendra Goforth, also visited the hospital Thursday before coaching the conclusion of the game.
"He was right in the middle of ICU," Goforth said. "Still, he looked 10 times better than he did last night."
Among Goforth's morning phone calls, she spoke with the TSSAA and was able to arrange umpires for Thursday's resumed portion of the game through local assigner Ralph Chambers at no charge to Sale Creek's program.
Before play began Thursday, both teams lined up across the respective baselines before Davidson approached home plate to address the crowd. He thanked the first responders from the stands for their job administering to Kirk before an ambulance arrived. Then he shouted, "Let's play ball!"
"Beyond a shadow of a doubt, that saved his life," Davidson said of the CPR performed Wednesday on Kirk.
But even before Davidson could get his announcement out, the Whitwell girls left their spots along the first-base line and mixed themselves in with the Lady Panthers on their sideline.
The red-clad Lady Tigers had ribbons in their hair that were royal blue, Sale Creek's main color, to honor Kirk. Each of the Lady Panthers had "CK" drawn somewhere on her arm.
"In the big picture, it was a win for everybody yesterday," Davidson said after the Lady Tigers won 5-1 in eight innings Thursday. "Both communities."
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.