East Hamilton's Brie Levy, her team down to its final out and trailing by three runs, smashed a grand slam in the seventh inning to give the Lady Hurricanes a 6-5 victory over Soddy-Daisy on Monday in District 5-AAA softball action at East Hamilton.
Levy, hitless in three previous at-bats – only getting one ball out of the infield – hit a 2-ball, 1-strike pitch from Lady Trojans pitcher Shonna Penney over the left-field fence, giving East Hamilton its first win over Soddy-Daisy, according to coach Norma Nelson.
It was Levy's sixth homer of the season, but first grand slam and first game-winner for the junior left fielder.
"I just wanted to put the ball in play and move the runners," Levy said. "This feels great and I don't think I've ever done that before. I have to credit my teammates for getting on base or that home run wouldn't have meant anything."
Penney also gave Levy a tip of the hat.
"She got some muscle on that ball," Penney said.
East Hamilton improved to 13-2 overall and 5-1 in District 5-AAA. Soddy-Daisy fell to 12-4 and 4-2.
Walker Valley’s Lady Mustangs, who beat East Hamilton (6-0) and Soddy-Daisy (5-4) earlier in the season, lead the district with a 4-0 record going into Wednesday’s game against McMinn County.
Penney went into the seventh in control and on the verge of registering her sixth win of the season against two losses.
Instead, Levy sent the Lady Hurricanes into a jubilant celebration near home plate.
“Some of the parents just told me this is East Hamilton’s first win over Soddy-Daisy,” said Nelson, in her first year at East Hamilton after an illustrious career at Ooltewah. “That’s pretty exciting.”
According to coachT.com’s website, the two teams had played four times previously and the Lady Trojans won them all by a combined score of 42-8, including three shutouts.
“This could help us a lot down the road,” Nelson said of Monday’s win. “These girls know they can beat any team we play because Soddy-Daisy is a great team.”
Without question, the confidence gained could boost the Lady Hurricanes in the second half of the district season, Levy said.
“When we started the seventh inning, we kept talking about getting runners on base and if we did that we could score some runs,” she said. “It shows that we can never give up and I think that means everything to us.
“We now know we can play against any team.”
Samantha Murray started the Lady Hurricanes’ seventh with a double over Hannah Smith’s head in left field.
Rachel Gamble, who pitched a complete-game for the win, scattering nine hits, striking out two and walking none, flied out to center field.
Alyssa Strickler hit a grounder between third and shortstop that shortstop Jessica Boles fielded, faked a throw to first and then got courtesy runner Tori Harris in a rundown between second and third. Harris made it safely back to second and Strickler was on first.
Savannah Daniels worked Penney for a bases-loading walk.
Kelsey Payne flied out to center for the second out.
Levy was up next.
On Penney’s fourth pitch, Levy hit a long drive to left and Smith could only watch it sail over the fence after running out of room to make a potential game-saving play.
All of Levy’s teammates were at home waiting for her as she rounded the bases.
“I’ll take blame for that,” Soddy-Daisy coach Wes Skiles said. “(Shonna) threw (the pitch) where we called it. Give credit to East Hamilton for fighting, coming back and keeping it going. They were down to their last out.”
Penney admitted being self-assured going into the seventh with a three-run cushion, bolstered by the fact that East Hamilton had managed only single runs in the third and fourth innings against her.
Penney retired the Lady Hurricanes in order in the fifth. She gave up a walk to Tori Barnes in the sixth, but she was doubled up when Amber Phillips lined out to left – Barnes raced toward second as soon as the ball was hit – and Smith fired to first to complete the double play.
“I was confident with the defense behind me,” she said. “There was a little more pressure with the bases loaded.”
As far as Levy’s final at-bat, Penney didn’t mince words in the aftermath of a tough loss yanked from the jaws of an odds-on victory.
“With the count 2-1, I was trying to get her to chase a ball but still make it close enough to be a strike,” Penney said. “I wanted it just off the plate, but it wound up on the inside of the plate – dead-perfect for her to hit.
“As soon as she touched it I knew it was gone. I had never seen her hit before (Monday). She has a hard swing and I was able to keep her off balance in her other at-bats.”
Soddy-Daisy took a 1-0 lead in the third when Brooke Hale singled and scored on Haley Reynolds’ opposite-field triple to right.
Cameren Swafford and Grayson Brown each singled to start the fourth inning and scored on Abby Walker’s two-out single to right-center, pushing the Lady Trojans into a 3-0 lead.
Reynolds homered to right-center in the fifth to add another run to the cushion.
In the top of the seventh, Walker led off with a single and moved to third on back-to-back sacrifice bunts by Hale and Gracie Ratledge. Walker scored on an outfield error to make it 5-2.
Then lightning struck.
“The season is in progress,” Skiles said. “We play one game at a time. We’ll forget about this one in a while and we won’t feel sorry for ourselves. It all comes down to what we’re doing in May. That’s when everything should be happening.”
Kelsey Payne’s double scored Harris – she was running for Gamble who had singled – in the third inning and Barnes led off the fourth with a double and came home on a groundout for East Hamilton’s first two runs.
Soddy-Daisy 001 210 1 – 5 9 0
East Hamilton 001 100 4 – 6 7 1
Penney and Moore; Gamble and Brooks.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)