The Atlanta and Chattanooga RBI softball teams met in the first and last games over the weekend in the Southeast Regional tournament in Chattanooga. And while the end result was the same both times, the margin Sunday at Frost Stadium was much wider.
The reigning-champion Atlanta team again will go to the 18-under RBI World Series after defeating the Chattanooga team 10-2 in six innings for the regional championship. This year's World Series is in Arlington, Texas, and will be held Aug. 12-17.
The Atlanta and Chattanooga teams first played Friday morning at 9 with Atlanta winning 3-2 in eight innings.
"The first time we played them, we didn't hit the ball very good," Atlanta coach Richard Lee said. "This time we were more patient. We told them, 'They've got to come to you three times. At least three times.' They did a very good job this time of hitting their pitch."
Atlanta had at least one hit in each inning in the championship game. It also took advantage of some wildness by losing pitcher Monica Thompson, particularly during a six-run third inning in which it had three hits.
"She did a wonderful job all week," Chattanooga coach Butch Leftwich said of Thompson, the team's only pitcher in the tournament. "She may have ran out of gas."
Chattanooga scored its runs in the top of the first inning, which began with Raven Shoulders drawing a walk and Virginia Rivers hitting a single to right field. With runners on the corners, Chattanooga pulled off a double steal before Ciera Taylor grounded out, Rivers scoring on a throwing error on the play.
"The first thing I told them when we came in was 'It's a seven-inning game. We haven't even batted yet,'" Lee said. "The only thing we wanted to do was not let them score anymore. Our pitcher settled in, hit her spots, and that helped a lot."
LaBrisha Washington was the winning pitcher and also went 3-for-3 with an RBI in Atlanta's three-run fifth. LaKaylin Lee was 3-for-4 with two RBIs, including the game-ending one by the mercy rule on a one-out double.
Coach Lee said shortstop Chelsea Hall had a case of strep throat Saturday night that required a visit to a local hospital. But not only did she play Sunday, she went 2-for-3 with a triple, two RBIs and two runs scored.
Twelve-year-old Madison Hayes went 2-for-2 for Chattanooga. She's a newly crowned Pitch, Hit & Run national champion.
"Two innings did us in," Leftwich said. "They have a good team. We knew it was going to be difficult, them being the defending champions. We had to come and play.
"We've had about six girls who have signed college scholarships, and a lot of them have had looks. This is the best group I've ever had. Hopefully we can get together and start a little earlier next year."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him 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.