East Hamilton and Soddy-Daisy could be headed for a showdown Monday at Soddy-Daisy for the regular-season championship in District 5-AAA softball.
The Lady Hurricanes defeated visiting Walker Valley 8-5 on Tuesday to keep pace with Soddy-Daisy atop the league standings.
"A lot of teams have to depend on somebody to beat somebody else for them," East Hamilton coach Norma Nelson said. "We control our own destiny. We win out and we will be district champions."
East Hamilton (22-8, 8-2) failed to score the first time it played Walker Valley. It was the Lady Hurricanes' second game of the year and they were coming off an emotional home victory over Ooltewah.
"Early on our season was like a roller coaster," Nelson said. "We were coming off a great win before, and I think we were just flat.
"I think we were more patient. We tried to pull everything last time and couldn't find any holes."
The Lady 'Canes left no doubt that there would be no scoring drought Tuesday, beginning with a four-run first inning. Walker Valley answered with two runs in the second, but a three-run bottom of the inning boosted East Hamilton in front 7-2.
The Lady Mustangs managed to rally for three runs in the fifth, and a leadoff walk in the sixth to leadoff batter Baylee Boen brought the tying run to the plate. At that point, Nelson pulled senior starting pitcher Rachel Gamble and sent in eighth-grader Shelby Duggard. Duggard retired all six she faced, including three by strikeouts, and preserved the pitching win for Gamble.
"They had had some hits the inning before," Nelson said. "We made some mistakes, too. I told myself, 'If they get another baserunner, I'm going to make a change.' They're different styles, different speeds. I thought it was time to show them something a little bit different."
Walker Valley (26-12, 7-4) was the last 5-AAA team to lose a district game. However, if the district tournament started today, the Lady Mustangs would be fourth-seeded. They could potentially change that with a home win today over Ooltewah, which beat them 6-5 in nine innings Monday.
Injuries have plagued the Lady Mustangs lately. They just got Hallie Davis back Monday from an ankle injury, but another starter, Emilee Spann, missed the East Hamilton game because of a shoulder problem. Coach Lauren Limburg insists the team remains in good spirits.
"We have had all sorts of different lineups," Limburg said. "It's just something you've got to push through. We didn't get the victory today, but I'm proud of our effort. It would've been easy to quit when we got down 4-0 and again 7-2. We showed what can happen when you don't give up.
"I told them it's not going to be easy. If it was easy, a lot more people would be out here playing. It's how you handle adversity. How do you come back after you lose?"
Alyssa Strickler and Kelsey Payne each went 3-for-4 for the Lady 'Canes. Strickler doubled in two runs in the second inning. Payne, who scored twice, singled in the final run in the sixth. Brie Levy was 2-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored.
A.J. Chancey and Alicia Raymond hit consecutive doubles starting the second for Walker Valley. Sydney Ventura, the courtesy runner for Raymond, the losing pitcher, ended up scoring from second base on Jordyn Dodson's infield single that inning. Lara Bean contributed an RBI single in the fifth.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com 423-757-6653.
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.