ATHENS — Bradley Central, Cleveland and Walker Valley found themselves battling for survival in the District 5-AAA softball tournament at McMinn County High School Saturday. No one survived.
The Lady Raiders made a quick exit after falling to the Bearettes of Bradley Central in the morning game. The Bearettes left the stage Saturday evening after falling to McMinn County. The Lady Mustangs then were ousted by Rhea County in the final game of the day.
In a win-or-go-home confrontation Saturday morning, the Bearettes and Lady Raiders squared off for the final time in 2011. After eight innings, the Bearettes stayed alive holding off a strong charge by the Lady Raiders to take a 6-5 win ending the season for Cleveland .
The Bearettes missed a chance to do some damage in the top of the first after loading the bases, but were unable to capitalize on the opportunity. The Lady Raiders manufactured a run in their half of the inning when Yoshi Hooks singled and later scored to put Cleveland on top 1-0.
The Bearettes answered in the second with three hits and took advantage of two Cleveland errors to go up 3-1. Allison Conley, Darla Herron and Kristal Leach all hit safely for Bradley Central.
McElhaney’s ladies added two more runs in the third when Conley doubled with one out and Baylee Carroll followed with a single. Both runners scored on another Cleveland miscue.
The Lady Raiders cranked up the hit machine in the lower portion of the inning to get one of the runs back. Karli Bledsoe singled and later scored on a Jacora Parker hit to make it 5-2.
After holding the Bearettes scoreless in the fourth, the Lady Raiders opened with an Amber Botts single. Katie Kirkpatrick, Bledsoe and Hooks added hits to cut the Bradley lead to 5-4.
Cleveland tied the game in the bottom portion of the sixth. Jasmine martin opened with a two-out single and knotted the score at 5-5 on Botts’ second hit of the game.
The Bearettes went down in order and the Lady Raiders managed single hits in the sixth and seventh but could not put a run on the board to send the game into extra innings.
Bradley central wasted little time and put three big runs on the board on a Carroll double and single off the bat of Darla Herron. Cleveland committed two errors to help the Bearettes take an 8-5 lead.
The Lady Raiders made a bold run in the eighth scoring a run off back-to-back doubles by Nanea Haruo and Kirkpatrick. With no outs, Hannah Holland beat out a bunt and Bledsoe loaded the bases on Bearettes miscue. But, winning pitcher Conley fanned two of the next three batters to lock up the win for Bradley Central and end the season for the Lady Raiders.
“We made some mistakes on defense that put some runners in scoring position that ended up scoring. That hurt us a little bit,” said Cleveland coach Connie Stobert. “But, I was really proud of them. The came in and really hit the ball. We had 18 hits. We haven’t had 18 hits all year. We were making things happen. They were down 5-1 and came back and tied it. I was really proud of them for doing that. The last inning just didn’t come through for us.”
“I’m proud of them. They have made improvements this year. That’s the biggest thing, they have learned and improved. They ended up being better than they were when they started. That was a good thing for them.”
In other games:
Lady Owls 2,
Lady Mustangs 1
The Walker Valley Lady Mustangs missed a chance to send Ooltewah to the loser’s bracket in the second game of the Saturday District 5-AAA marathon dropping a tough 2-1 decision to the Lady Owls.
Ooltewah took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Lady Mustangs’ sophomore pitcher Sidney Hooper was touched for a home run by Katelyn Bowen.
The Lady Mustangs fell behind 2-0 in the third when Ooltewah banged out a single and later scored on a groundball.
Walker Valley shortstop Rachel Percy took Ooltewah’s Taylor Baird deep to right-center field for a solo homer in the bottom of the fifth. Baird had held the Lady Mustangs to only one hit before the blast, a single by Baylee Boen in the third.
Sidney Hooper, who took the loss for the Lady Mustangs recorded the only other hit for Walker Valley , a single in the sixth.
Lady Cherokees 12,
The Bearettes headed into Saturday evening needing a win over McMinn County to stay alive and fight their way to the championship game out of the loser's bracket.
The Bearettes fell behind 1-0 after the first inning, but bounce back in the top of the third to take a 3-1 lead over the Lady Cherokees.
Krista Leach led off with a walk and Meghan Ward followed with a one-out single. Both runners later scored on a Tori Roberts hit. Roberts came home on a two-out single by Allison Conley.
McMinn jumped back into the lead an inning later to take a 5-3 advantage and broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth. The Lady Cherokees banged out eight hits and scored seven times to build a 12-3 cushion.
Herron’s single in the top of the sixth would be the final hit of the season for the Bearettes after the Lady Cherokees left Herron stranded and held Bradley Central scoreless in the seventh to close out the win and end the season for the Bearettes.
"We greatly improved from the beginning of the season to where we are now. We finally were able to so some things that (assistant coach) Terry (McElhaney) and I always believed they could do. They came out early today against Cleveland and executed a lot of things we have been working on. I'm proud of them, the way they have grown throughout the season," said head coach Christy McElhaney. "We had two seniors that started for us, but we are still an extremely young team.
McElhaney is already battling injuries while looking for replacements to fill the holes left by this season’s departing seniors.
"I've got two outfielders that hopefully will be fighting for their spots. We need to find a new catcher. My backup had a knee injury and went to short this year. We don't know if she will be able to go back behind the plate next year or not. We've just got to look for that catcher and look for some key people to come in and go at them hard next year," she said.
Lady Eagles 8,
Lady Mustangs 6
The Lady Mustangs found themselves in a quick 3-0 hole after the Lady Eagles of Rhea County after committing three first-inning errors. After an uncharacteristic fourth miscue in the third, Walker Valley found itself down 4-0 to Rhea.
The Lady Mustangs, after managing only three hits in against Ooltewah, again found the going tough at the plate. Leslie Still picked up the only Walker Valley safety in four innings with a single in the second.
Rachel Percy broke the drought with a single in the fifth and the Lady Mustangs came alive for a brief moment when Laurel Allen doubled to left scoring Allie Morrow, who reached after getting hit by a pitch, and Percy to cut the Rhea County lead to 4-2.
The Lady Eagles loaded the bases in the upper portion of the sixth with one out and added another run to make it 5-2. Lady Mustangs' coach Lauren Limburg took the walk to the mound and pulled Hooper in favor of Lauren Lawson. Rhea put three more runs up on two singles and another error before the fire could be brought under control.
Hooper breathed a spark into the Lady Mustangs with a lead-off single down the right-field line in the bottom of the inning. A botched pick-off play put the sophomore on second. She crossed the plate on a Morgan Elrod single. Allie Morrow followed with a single and Amber Houchin loaded the bases after being walked. Percy stepped into the box and cleared the bases with a single to left that scooted under the glove of the Rhea left-fielder to make it 8-6. A call strike three ended the rally for the Lady Mustangs.
After giving up a double to open the seventh, Lawson shut the Lady Eagles down in order giving the Lady Mustangs a final shot at moving to the next round.
Two quick outs put Rhea County a step closer to staying alive. Kayla Sewell lined a shot to left that bounced over for a ground-rule double keeping the Walker Valley hope alive. But the hope was dashed when a foul out to first ended the game with the Lady Eagles taking the 8-6 win.
"You always want to get as far as you can in the postseason. You play for the postseason. I'm proud of our girls. They had a great season. They fought hard and they fought back. That's all I can ask them to do," Limburg said of the heartbreaking loss.
"We lose four very special seniors. But, we've got some great players coming back and I look forward to next season. This one is going to sting for a while, but like I told the girls, we are so proud of them. Next year we will be back out here doing the same thing."