Norma Nelson's softball career coaching record against Ooltewah High School is now 1-0.
Nelson's East Hamilton team got off to a smashing start Tuesday and defeated the Lady Owls 10-4 in the Lady Hurricanes' first game in District 5-AAA.
The twist to the game played in front of a good-sized crowd at East Hamilton is that Nelson spent 25 years coaching softball at Ooltewah -- the last 20 as head coach. She was relieved of that duty after last spring by a previous administration.
Nelson still teaches at Ooltewah, at least as of Tuesday. That may change if today she wears some East Hamilton gear like her players say she must.
"I've worn green before, but never an East Hamilton shirt," Nelson said. "I don't think I promised that I would if we won, but they said I did."
The first pitch to No. 3 East Hamilton batter Kelsey Payne after a hit batsman and a throwing error became a three-run home run to right field by the left-handed batter, and consecutive homers to right-center by right-handers Brie Levy and Emma Brooks made the score quickly 5-0.
"I've told pretty much everybody I've talked to, we'll hit," Nelson said. "I watched them last year. I've watched them in practice. We've got some kids with some speed, but we've got some kids with some power who can hit it."
East Hamilton (1-0, 1-0) loaded the bases after the home runs but didn't add any more in the first. But the next inning Tori Barnes grounded out for the first of her two RBIs and Alyssa Strickler hit a two-run double to put the Lady 'Canes up 8-1.
"They clearly can swing the bat, at least at this point in the season, a whole lot better than we can," Ooltewah coach Jon Massey said. "When you get behind like that, you can't hit a five-run homer. You've got to peck away. They've got three or four or five who can hit it out a lot of places. We don't have that. We have one or two."
One is Allie Jones, whose home run in the fifth pulled the Lady Owls within 9-4. Leadoff batter Ashunti Cooper, who was 2-for-4 with a double, and Tiera Lemon, who had three bunt singles, were on base.
"Ooltewah wants to get those two speed kids on, and I know Allie can hit," Nelson said. "We did a good job with her every time but that one."
Payne, who in the bottom of the fifth doubled in the final run, and Levy each went 3-for-4. Levy, who also doubled, scored three runs and Payne scored twice. Strickler was 2-for-4 and Lady 'Canes leadoff batter Savannah Daniels scored twice and stole a base.
Winning pitcher Rachel Gamble gave up 10 hits but did not walk a batter and had three strikeouts.
Aubbie Collake was 2-for-3 with a triple and an RBI for Ooltewah (1-1, 0-1). Jadyn Raschke drew praise from Massey after coming on in relief of starter Monica Thompson in the first inning and going the rest of the way.
"She gave us a little boost," Massey said of his freshman right-hander. "But they were never threatened. We were never in the game. Monica will be back. It would rattle me, too, to give up three in a row like that. She's a good pitcher, I promise you. She's going to win a lot of games.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com.