After beating Ooltewah for the first time in more than a quarter century last week, Bradley Central softball did in another longtime nemesis Thursday, powering past Rhea County.
“I don’t remember the last time we beat them,” declared longtime Bearette coach Christie McElhaney after the 9-5 come-from-behind win at Bob McKenzie Field. “It’s been several years. I’m proud of the way we played. We got down but then came back. Once we got a couple of hits, it became contagious.”
Rhea County’s lead-off batter singled and scored a few plays later on an error in the first inning. The Lady Eagles (6-3, 1-2) then strung together three straight singles for a run in the top of the third, before another fielding error allowed two more to score for a 4-0 advantage.
Not letting the early deficit get to them, the Bearettes (4-6, 2-2 District 5-AAA) exploded for a six-run fourth, including a two-run home run from senior Baylee Carroll. Another two-run shot by sophomore Von Harrison in the fifth and a solo score in the sixth sealed the win.
After just a single by Cleveland State signee Tori Roberts as the lone Bradley hit in the first three frames, the hosts got their bats going in the bottom of the fourth.
Roberts drew a one-out walk before Harrison ripped a double down the right field line. A free passes to freshman Chealsea Sadler then loaded the bases.
Rhea appeared to be out of the jam when senior Cassandra Fowler hit a grounder to second, but the ball was bobbled and Sadler beat the toss to the bag to keep the rally going. Both Roberts and Harrison scored on the play to cut the deficit in half.
Freshman Emmaly Morgan then stepped to the plate and delivered a sinking line drive past a diving Rhea center fielder for a two-run double to bring in Sadler and Fowler to even the score.
Carroll gave the hosts the lead when she followed with a shot into the trees beyond the right-center field fence for her second home run of the season.
Rhea County pulled within a run of the lead by taking advantage of a leadoff walk in the top of the fifth, but Bradley answered in the bottom of the frame as Meghan Ward, another CSCC signee, led off with a single before Harrison smacked a two-out homer over the right field fence.
The final Bearette run in the bottom of the sixth came when Fowler reached on an error and junior Kierstyn Blair came on as a pinch runner, moving to third on another Lady Eagle miscue and then coming in to score when Carroll lifted a sacrifice fly to right field.
“We had a meeting before the game to talk about ‘bringing it every game,’” related coach McElhaney. “We had leads late at (two-time defending state champion) Soddy-Daisy and against Polk County and let both of those games slip away. We talked about execution and leaving people stranded. Tonight we did a good job in both of those categories.”
“We executed at the plate, just leaving four runners on base and played better defense, except for a couple of miscues that led to some of their runs. We understood our roles at the plate.”
The Bradley coach also praised the pitching effort of senior Allison Conley, who like Roberts and Ward has inked with Cleveland State for next season.
“Allison pitched another great game. She’s thrown eight games in seven days, but she did what she needed to do today for us.” Conley scattered seven hits and walked just one while only three of Rhea’s run were earned.
After 10 games in as many days, the Bearettes will take next week off for spring break and return to the diamond April 2 when archrival Cleveland High comes calling.
Rhea County 103 010 0 — 5 7 3
Bradley Central 000 621 x — 9 7 3
WP: Allison Conley 7 IP, 1 K, 1 BB, 7 hits, 3 ER; LP: Hannah Manley 6 IP, 6 Ks, 2 BB, 7 hits, 2 ER. HR: Baylee Carroll, Von Harrison (BC). 2B: Emily Morgan, Harrison (BC); RBI: Sarah Freels, Manley (RC); Carroll 3, Morgan 2, Harrison 2 (BC). Highlights: Amy Lewis 3-4, run; Freels 2-4, SB, run (RC); Harrison 2-3, 2B, HR, 2 RBI 2 runs; Megan Ward 2-4, run; Tori Roberts 1-1, BB, run; Carroll 1-2, HR 3 RBI, run; Morgan 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI, run (BC). Records: Rhea County 6-3, 1-2 District 5-AAA; Bradley Central 4-6, 2-2 District 5-AAA.