For the third straight year, Walker Valley and Polk County have advanced to their respective region tournaments, but for one of the squads things will be a little different this time around.
While the Lady Mustangs will once again open the Region 3-AAA Tournament on the road, the Lady Wildcats will get to host a Region 3-AA semifinal game for the first time in 20 years.
“Frankie Lowery was coaching them in 1993 and ’94 when they won the district the last time. He took them [Polk County] all the way to the sectionals,” explained Coach Bill Triplett, who has led the Lady Wildcats to region play in each of his three years at the helm.
Polk County will welcome District 6-AA runner-up Hixson to Benton Monday for a 5:30 p.m. contest.
Walker Valley claimed its third straight District 5-AAA runner-up plaque this week and will once again have to hit the road to begin region play, but they will be heading in a different direction than the last two years.
After having to climb Monteagle Mountain on its way to Coffee County these past two years, the Lady Mustangs will have to work their way through the Cumberland Mountains to get to Cookeville Monday for a 7 p.m. first pitch.
“We would have rather been playing at home, but that’s not the way it worked out,” remarked Coach Lauren Limburg after her Walker Valley squad forced a second championship game but fell to Soddy-Daisy 7-5 in the district tournament finale for the third straight year.
Both Polk County and Walker Valley have victories over their region opponents this season, but the Lady Wildcats also dropped a one-run game to Hixson. “We beat them 9-2 early on, but we lost to them 11-10 late in the season when we were missing three or four of our players,” Coach Triplett related.
Coach Limburg’s Lady Mustangs defeated Cookeville 2-0 in the mid-season Plateau Invitational tournament at Crossville.
While posting a 28-9-1 record, Cookeville made a clean sweep of the District 6-AAA competition with 10 wins in the regular season and three more in the tournament. Having won 13 of their 14 games since losing to Walker Valley, the Lady Cavaliers have outscored those opponents by a 106-25 margin.
Cookeville is led by Middle Tennessee signee Morgan Harris, who has blasted 13 home runs this season. The senior catcher has homered in seven of her last eight games.
Walker Valley (34-13) will counter with junior Hallie Davis, who has “left the building” 16 times this year, including five during the seven 5-AAA tournament games.
Being the feistiest filly of them all, Davis leads the team in most offensive categories including a .490 batting average, a .555 on base percentage and a 1.156 slugging percentage thanks to a dozen doubles and two triples to go along with her 16 “dingers” and 17 singles for 111 total bases. She has also scored 45 times and drove in 44 runs. Davis also drew 14 free passes while striking out just five times in 112 plate appearances.
In the field, “Dirt Devil” Davis has numerous outstanding defensive plays to get the Lady Mustangs out of jams and save runs, as did senior shortstop Rachel “Hoover” Percy and junior third baseman Lara “Eureka” Bean, known at the “Vacuum Squad,” presenting an extremely tough defense to get a ball through.
Percy, who has signed to play for Tennessee Wesleyan, and Bean have also done well at the plate. Percy has a .295 OBP, with five doubles, a pair of triples and five home runs in her 32 hits. She has also driven in 21 teammates and scored 35 times.
Bean is hitting at a .336 clip, with a .406 OBP, nine two-baggers and a home run in 37 hits to plate 16 “ribbies” and score 17 times herself.
The “Feisty Fillies” are also getting a strong season from sophomore left fielder Emilee Spann, who is batting .364 with a .422 on base percentage. The 6-foot, two-sport athlete ripped 11 doubles, a triple and a pair of homers in her 36 hits, plus drove in 19 runs and scored 26 times so far this season.
Senior leadoff hitter Baylee Boen, who has signed with TWC to play both softball and volleyball, is second on the team with 43 hits, translating into a .299 BA and a .370 OBP, which includes a team-leading 17 walks. The lefty slap-hitter leads the team with eight stolen bases and has scored 37 runs.
Junior catcher AJ Chancey is also having another strong season, tied with Davis for the team lead with a dozen doubles. The clean-up hitter’s hard shots have allowed her to reach base on 19 errors to go along with her 36 hits, three of which have cleared the outfield fence. She has also drawn 13 free passes for a .358 OBP, while she is hitting at a .293 clip.
Boasting a .357 OBP and a .274 BA, junior first baseman Mackenzie Elrod had belted a half dozen doubles and a pair of homers while driving in 27 runs. She leads the team by being hit by eight pitches, plus she has draw seven base on balls to go with her 31 hits.
The Lady Mustangs have also gotten strong seasons from junior pitchers Alicia Raymond and Carly Frost.
Raymond is 25-11 in the circle with a save, a 1.75 earned run average and just 35 free passes issued in 201 innings of work. The workhorse right-hander has 90 strike outs and a 0.971 WHIP. She also defends her position extremely well.
Raymond has helped her own cause with a strong bat as well, with nine doubles, a home run and 26 RBIs in her 37 hits. Batting .306 with a .354 OBP, she drew nine walks and reached base on 13 opponent errors. Working through several injuries, she has played in 46 of Walker Valley’s 47 games this season. Bean, Percy, Elrod and Boen were the only Lady Mustangs to have played in every game this season.
Frost, a lefty who plays right field when not in the circle, has an 8-3 pitching record with a 3.05 ERA, with 36 Ks in 55 innings pitched. At the plate, the lefty swinger has a home run and three doubles in her 20 hits. She has driven in 11 teammates and scored nine times.
“We play good team ball. We have good hitters all down the lineup. We’ve gotten great pitching this year and played great defense behind them,” Coach Limburg remarked. “We just need to stay focused on every pitch.”
Soddy-Daisy (32-8), which has played in 10 of the last 12 TSSAA state tournaments earning five championship and three runner-up trophies, will entertain Warren County (7-19) in Monday’s other 3-AAA semifinal.
If a District 6-AAA team wins Monday, then they will host the region championship game Wednesday, but if there will be a sixth meeting between the Lady Mustangs and Lady Trojans, it will be in Soddy-Daisy. Monday’s winners will also advance to TSSAA Sectional games Friday.
Coach Triplett also feels good about his Polk County squad heading into region play. “We’ve gotten a complete effort from all nine of our starters. We’ve played pretty good defense and have had success batting up and down our lineup.”
Taking a 24-6 overall record into Monday’s game, like Cookeville, the Lady Wildcats swept their district competition in 11 games (eight regular season and three tournament games) this year.
Polk County pitchers Hannah Triplett and Briana Muller have had strong seasons.
“They’ve done a good job all year,” Coach Triplett praised. “We’ve been able to hang our hats on our pitching. We haven’t had a bad pitching day all season.”
Triplett, a sophomore, is 15-3 with a 2.49 ERA, while Muller, a junior, is 9-3 with a 2.63 earned run average.
The pair have also been pivotal at the plate with Muller, who plays first base when not in the circle, leading the team with a .436 BA, with 26 RBIs, a pair of home runs and 10 stolen bases. The younger Triplett has also driven in 26 runs, while hitting at a .400 clip with a home run.
Leadoff hitter and shortstop Aubrie Bowman leads the team with 28 “ribbies,” 25 stolen bases, four home runs and 11 doubles, while batting .408.
Third baseman Emily Bates has driven in 22 teammates, while posting a .405 batting average, while left fielder Ashlyn Johnson is right behind her at .403 with 18 RBIs, plus she has swiped eight bases.
Catcher Hannah Withrow has been a pleasant surprise for Coach Triplett with a .357 BA, 20 runs driven in and a home run.
“After we lost Lilly [Cuzzort, an all-district performer who graduated last May], we had questions about what we were going to have behind the plate this year, but Withrow has really stepped up and solidified us there.”
The team’s lone senior is Felecia Johnson, who is hitting at a .333 clip with 18 RBIs and eight stolen bases, while Katie Williams is batting .293 with 10 steals and 17 “ribbies.” Macie Waldroup rounds out the starting lineup hitting .290.
Loudon, the 5-AA runner-up, will travel to 6-AA champ Chattanooga Central Monday for the other semifinal pairing. The winners will square off for the region title Wednesday, with the 6-AA teams getting to host since it is an even-numbered year. Both Wednesday teams will play a TSSAA Sectional game Friday.