While guiding Soddy-Daisy to seven state softball championships, veteran coach Clifford Kirk has always put teams on the field that ran the bases aggressively and played solid defense.
The 2012 edition of the Lady Trojans is no exception.
Using aggressive base-running and solid defense from junior third-baseman Cassidy Hackney, Soddy-Daisy defeated Coffee County, 1-0, for the Region 3-AAA championship Wednesday night at Clifford Kirk Stadium.
Kirk’s teams have also featured great pitchers, and senior Kelsey Nunley held up her part of that deal with a no-hitter and 12 strikeouts Wednesday night.
Soddy-Daisy (41-4) will play host to Murfreesboro Riverdale (45-13) on Friday at 7 p.m. in a state sectional. Lincoln County beat Riverdale, 7-2, for the Region 4 title Wednesday night.
Coffee County (30-11-1) will play at Lincoln County (44-5-1) in a sectional on Saturday because Lincoln County has graduation on Friday night.
Sectional winners advance to the Spring Fling state championships next week in Murfreesboro.
Wednesday’s region championship game featured a duel between Nunley and Coffee County’s Brianna Jones.
In a scoreless tie, Soddy-Daisy’s first two batters in the bottom of the sixth made outs. That brought up Hackney, who was 0-for-4 Tuesday night against Sparta, and who was hitless in two at-bats Wednesday night.
“I was determined not to O-fer again,’’ Hackney said.
The Soddy-Daisy standout slapped the first pitch into left field for a single.
“She had been throwing screwballs and curves,’’ Hackney said. “I thought a screwball was coming and swung at the first pitch.’’
Olivia Williams then followed with a slap infield single. When the throw went to first base, Hackney never slowed and raced to third base. The throw to third was late and then the Coffee County third-baseman threw the ball into right-field trying to get Williams at second base.
“Every time I’m on first base and there is contact I look at the base ahead,’’ Hackney said. “I knew I could beat her to third base. I did it on my own. I never slowed down.’’
In the top of the seventh, Coffee County leadoff Julie Layne reached on an error. When the ball went back to Nunley in the circle, Layne took off for second base.
“Our freshman shortstop (Jessica Boles) was feeling bad about her error and didn’t cover,’’ Kirk said. "That won't happen again.''
Niki Campbell then sacrificed Layne to third base. With only one out, Chelsea Howell tried a suicide bunt, but Hackney fielded it and threw out Layne at home plate.
“I was determined to go home with it,’’ Hackney said.
Soddy-Daisy assistant coach Wes Skiles said he was very impressed with Nunley, who had a small meltdown recently against Rhea County after losing a perfect game in the seventh inning.
“Kelsey spiraled out of control in that game,’’ Skiles said. “Tonight after the error, she called everybody together at the mound. She calmed everybody down. That’s a true leader.’’
Said Kirk, “We knew if we ever got a base-runner that we were going to steal or do whatever it took. Cassidy can do that. She did a great job taking the extra base.’’
Nunley, who has signed with the University of Kentucky, allowed only a walk in the second and the error in the seventh.
“When you have Kelsey, you know you always have a chance,’’ Kirk said.
Soddy-Daisy had only three hits off Jones – singles by Hackney, Williams and Morgan Bailey. Jones struck out eight.
“We have beaten Lincoln County and Riverdale this year,’’ Hackney said. “I feel good about our chances, but I know they are two great teams.’’
Coffee County……….000 000 0 – 0 0 1
Soddy-Daisy…………000 001 x – 1 3 1
Jones and Howell; Nunley and Bailey.
(E-mail Stan Crawley at firstname.lastname@example.org)