Norma Nelson has been coaching high school softball for a long time and she's won a whole lot of games along the way, but chances are good that she's never ever wanted to win a season opener any more than the one her team played on Tuesday afternoon.
Nelson was the head coach at Ooltewah for most of her career and never had a losing season, but for whatever reason, was fired at the end of softball last year. She didn't stay idle very long as she was hired in the same capacity at East Hamilton, but was able to keep her teaching position at Ooltewah.
The Lady Hurricanes had their season opener on Tuesday. Ironically, the first game came in a key District 5-AAA matchup with the Ooltewah Lady Owls.
It didn't take long for the Lady Hurricanes to take charge as they used three consecutive home runs in the first inning to score five runs and that was all the offense needed as the Lady Hurricanes rolled to a 10-4 victory.
It was never a very close game as East Hamilton added three more runs in the second before adding solo runs in the fifth and sixth innings.
The Lady Owls countered with a single run in the second and a three spot in the fifth, but the Lady Hurricanes were in control from the first pitch until the final out was recorded.
"I just wanted the game to end the way it started, but I'm very happy as it's just another win," Nelson said with tongue in cheek afterward.
"We'll hit it. We have some kids with speed, but we also have some with power. I knew that long before I became their coach, but it was nice to get the big lead as it allowed us to relax just a little bit. It took the pressure off of Rachel, but our defense did a great job as well," she added, referring to pitcher Rachel Gamble, a senior who went the distance to get her first win after allowing the four runs and scattering 10 hits.
"I've worn some green shirts to school before, but they said that I promised to wear and East Hamilton shirt tomorrow if we won. They may not let me in the front door," Nelson laughed.
Ooltewah coach Jon Massey knows that his team may be down after the first game, but certainly not out.
"East Hamilton is swinging the bats a whole lot better than us at this point, but we have to learn how to throw more first-pitch strikes," Massey said after a brief meeting with his girls.
"We aren't going to hit lot of home runs like they did as we just need to peck away, but we got sawed off a bunch at the plate. Jadyn came in and gave us a lift, but we were never in this game. Monica is a good pitcher and she'll win a lot of games for us, but she sort of got rattled in the first inning.
"But that's a very good team over there, but we've got to hit the ball. We still have a lot to work on, but this game won't define our season. We'll see what happens on Thursday," he concluded in reference to the next game at home against Cleveland.
Gamble allowed a one-out bunt to Tiera Lemon in the first, but left her stranded on second following a pop to short and her second strikeout of the inning.
East Hamilton wasted no time getting its offense off and running.
Savannah Daniels got hit by a pitch and was safe at second when a throw on a sacrifice bunt from Gamble sailed into centerfield. Kelsey Payne then followed with a three-run homer to right.
Brie Levy then ripped a round-tripper on the next pitch before Emma Brooks roped a 1-2 pitch past the fence in right-center for a 5-0 lead. Starting pitcher Monica Thompson was then replaced by freshman Jadyn Raschke.
A walk to Amber Phillips and back-to-back singles by Alyssa Strickler and Maggie Woods loaded the bases, but Raschke got Daniels on a called third strike before ending the inning on a grounder to short from Gamble.
The Lady Owls scored their first run in the second inning when Aubbie Collake's single plated Sloan Sullivan, who had singled with one out.
East Hamilton put three more runs on the board in the bottom of the second with Strickler's two-run double being the big blow. Tori Barnes drove in the first run with a groundout after singles by Payne and Levy and a walk to Brooks loaded the bases.
The Lady Owls had their biggest inning in the fifth when Ashunti Cooper led off with a double before Lemon reached on another bunt, her third straight of the game. Allie Jones then launched a three-run homer down the line in right, but the Lady Owls never scored again.
Barnes had an RBI-single in the fourth while a double by Payne in the fifth drove in Daniels with the last run of the game.
Payne and Levy both had three hits for the winners as they finished with 13. Payne also had four runs batted in. Strickler was the only other Lady Hurricane with more than one hit as she had two.
Lemon finished with three hits to lead the Lady Owls while Cooper and Collake both finished with two apiece.
Gamble was the winning pitcher as she went the distance with three strikeouts and no walks. She also hit one.
Raschke pitched six innings in relief for Ooltewah and finished with three walks and three strikeouts in addition to 10 hits and five runs.
Ooltewah's next game is at home on Thursday against Cleveland while East Hamilton will be on the road Wednesday afternoon for a battle at Walker Valley.
OOLTEWAH 010 030 0 -- 4 10 1
EAST HAMILTON 530 110 x -- 10 13 0
Thompson, Raschke (1) and Williams; Gamble and Brooks.
(Email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@Comcast.net)