The next phase of the 2013 high school baseball season begins today for District 5-AAA schools.
It’s an opportunity for redemption for some teams.
It’s a chance to solidify what has been a highly successful seasons for others.
It is district tournament time, with Soddy-Daisy serving as host team this week.
Two games kick off the tournament today – No. 4 seed Cleveland (14-19) takes on No. 5 Rhea County (10-14) at 4 p.m. and No. 3 Bradley Central (19-11) plays No. 6 McMinn County (5-23) at approximately 7 p.m. in the nightcap.
On Thursday, top-seed Ooltewah (20-11), the regular season champion after winning 10 of 12 league games, awaits the Cleveland-Rhea winner for an 8 p.m. showdown. At 5 p.m., No. 2 Walker Valley (18-13) plays No. 7 Soddy-Daisy (8-21).
“I’m proud of the kids, but we’ve still got the district tournament to go,” Mustangs coach Joe Shamblin said. “I might not be so proud after that, but they’ve exceeded our expectations this year.”
In 2012, Ooltewah and Walker Valley wound up in the championship round.
The Mustangs won, 4-0, to force a second game to decide the title.
The Owls won that one, 8-0, behind Drew Williams’ stellar pitching performance and a 13-hit attack to give coach Brian Hitchcox his second district tournament championship.
This time around the Owls are loaded with the district’s best pitching staff, at least on paper, with the one-two punch of Zach Thompson and Jackson McClain leading the way.
In the wings are Kevin Dupree, Williams, Jared Ryan and Logan Fugate.
Yet, Hitchcox isn’t that content heading into the tournament.
“I’m really not satisfied with anything,” he said. We try to get better every day, make small improvements throughout the season and, hopefully, we’re better now than at the beginning or middle of the season.”
After winning the 2012 title, Ooltewah played Warren County in the Region 3-AAA semifinals, losing to the Pioneers, 4-3, in nine innings. Warren County faced Thompson, McClain and Dupree in that game.
Sophomore shortstop Logan Underhill’s run-scoring single in the ninth decided the game and ended the Owls’ season.
The Owls lived with the Warren County loss throughout the offseason and that helped motivate his players to get more out of this season.
“I think some of our guys learned a lesson from that (game),” Hitchcox said. “It’s not like we took that game lightly and didn’t try as hard as we could. They just outplayed us.”
At Soddy-Daisy High School
4 p.m. – Cleveland vs. Rhea County
7 p.m. – Bradley Central vs. McMinn County
5 p.m. – Walker Valley vs. Soddy-Daisy
8 p.m. – Ooltewah vs. Cleveland-Rhea winner
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)