Juniors Cameron Baltimore and Josie Cain made sure new Ooltewah softball coach Jon Massey got off to a good start.
Baltimore threw a four-hitter, Cain was a defensive standout and had two of Ooltewah’s nine hits and the Lady Owls whipped visiting Rhea County, 7-1, Monday in a non-region softball season opener for both teams.
“My good start felt good and I feel like this season is going to be a good one,” said Baltimore, a right-hander who lost a no-hit bid with two out fourth inning. “I did pretty good last year as the No. 2 pitcher, but this year we’re going to switch back and forth and see who gets in a groove.”
Baltimore had her groove from the get-go.
She retired the first 11 Lady Golden Eagles and lost the perfect start when Ashton Hill ripped a clean single to left-center field with two out in the fourth. Anslee Hill followed with a slap-single to left, but Baltimore got Emily Barnett on a groundout to end the inning.
The first seven Rhea County hitters grounded out, with third baseman Cain getting five of the putouts. Baltimore then struck out Tori Gentry and Hailey Galvin flied out to left field to end the third inning.
“Basically all we were doing was grounding out to the infield the first time through the lineup,” Rhea County coach Leah Price said.
Baltimore retired Delaney Smith and Amy Lewis on soft liners to Cain and second baseman Sloan Sullivan, respectively, ahead of the back-to-back hits by the Hills.
In the fifth, Baltimore struck out Sarah Beth Mitchell and retired Haley Gunter and Gentry on infield grounders.
The Lady Golden Eagles got their only run off Baltimore in the sixth when Delaney Smith reached on a one-out bunt single and went to second when Baltimore’s throw was wide at first base. She later scored on Ashton Hill’s double to center.
Baltimore got Barnett on a fly ball to left to end the threat.
Baltimore got two quick outs – on ground balls – to start the seventh, but Gentry reached on shortstop Tiera Lemon’s fielding error. Galvin popped out to short to end the game.
“The key for Cameron was throwing first-pitch strikes,” Massey said. “I bet 75 percent of the time she threw a first strike and when you do that you’ll be successful. Josie played great at third and Summer (catcher Williams) did a great job behind the plate.”
Through five innings Rhea County managed just two base runners. The Lady Golden Eagles had three in the sixth and one in the seventh.
“I really felt good when I started,” said Baltimore, who relied heavily on a screwball throughout the game, “and when it felt like I was slacking off later in the game I just tried to push harder and finish the game.”
Ooltewah got on the scoreboard with an unearned run in the second inning.
Sullivan reached on an error, went to second on a wild pitch, to third on a groundout and scored on a single by Aubie Collake, who was hitting in the No. 8 spot in the lineup for Baltimore.
Allie Jones and Cain had run-scoring singles in the third to push the Lady Owls’ lead to 3-0.
Defensively, Cain had five assists and one putout. Offensively, she went 2-for-3 with two singles and an RBI.
“I felt great out there,” Cain said. “Cameron had a really good first game, kept us going and didn’t give up there at the end. Now, we’ll get ready for East Hamilton (on Tuesday).”
The game at East Hamilton has some real intrigue.
Ooltewah’s coach last year, Norma Nelson, was fired and now coaches the Lady Hurricanes.
Massey replaced Nelson at Ooltewah.
“We swung the bats well enough to be dangerous and didn’t run as much as I wanted to,” Massey said, “but when you’re up 7-0 after five innings you just want to swing the bats. We have to get a lot better because it will be different (Tuesday). East Hamilton will be ready to play and we better be ready to play or we’ll be one-and-one.”
Ooltewah got six of its nine hits in a four-run fourth inning off left-hander Reagan Gravitt.
Williams lashed a single down the left-field foul line and pinch-runner Bailey Kennedy later scored on an error when Shelby Sutton reached on a bunt single and Gravitt’s throwing error at first. That allowed Sutton to wind up at second and she scored on Ashunti Cooper’s single to right.
Cooper advanced to third on Lemon’s hit to right and would score on a wild pitch. Lemon came home on Elizabeth Norvelli’s single up the middle for a 7-0 lead.
Rhea County 000 001 0 – 1 4 1
Ooltewah 012 400 x – 7 9 2
Rumer, Gravitt (4) and Gunter; Baltimore and Williams.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)