Ooltewah and Collierville ended a long day of softball Saturday with a game that resembled a chess match on dirt.
Right-hander Cameron Baltimore threw a four-hit shutout – escaping nail-biting jams in the sixth and seventh innings – and Allie Jones hit a first-inning home run to help the Lady Owls turn back Collierville, 1-0, to capture the Ooltewah Invitational championship at The Summitt.
“She’s a bulldog out there,” Lady Owls coach Jon Massey said of Baltimore. “She wants the ball and I love that about her. She is gritty, she’s our security blanket and keeps us in every game she pitches.”
The Lady Dragons have the state's top-ranked defense, according to coachT.com's web site, giving up an average of 1.1 runs per game.
Baltimore’s masterpiece was just one of several by Ooltewah pitchers on the day.
In a 15-0 rout of District 5-AAA rival McMinn County that advanced Ooltewah into the title game, freshman Jadyn Raschke fired a one-hitter – a fifth-inning single – and pushed her record to 3-1 on the season. She struck out four and walked one.
Earlier in the day, sophomore Monica Thompson matched Raschke’s one-hitter in the Lady Owls’ 10-0, four-inning win over Sequoyah, which got a one-out single in the third.
In the four-game run up to the title showdown, Ooltewah (16-5) outscored its opponents 41-2.
“It was a good day of softball,” Massey said.
With two out in the first, Jones hit a pitch up and in from Kelsey Gross toward right-center.
Two Lady Dragons outfielders drifted toward the fence and finally ran out of real estate as the ball sailed over for what turned out to be the game’s only run.
“I hit the ball so high I wasn’t really sure it would go out,” said Jones of her fifth homer this season. “The pitch was my kind of pitch, a little up. I’ve been in a slump the last several games before today, so that felt great.”
In the game against McMinn County, Jones went 2-for-4 with a double, drove in four runs and scored twice.
The slump’s over.
In that same game, Ooltewah’s Ashunti Cooper went 3-for-4 with an RBI and scored three runs. Tiera Lemon had two hits, including a two-run double, three RBIs and scored three times.
Collierville coach Mike Bradley wanted the title trophy, but he assured his players their collective day-long performance was outstanding.
“Ooltewah hit the ball and we didn’t,” said Bradley, his team now 22-4-1. “We’ve been hitting well all year, but we left it at home this weekend. We gave up two runs in six games and lost two 1-0 games. But this will be a good learning experience for us.”
Baltimore allowed one base runner – Gross’ leadoff single in the second – over the first five innings. She had retired 11 straight before Eli Burriss reached on the first of three errors by third baseman Aubie Collake.
Pinch-hitter Shelby Crocker then singled to left. Hannah Oliver reached on Collake’s second miscue to load the bases.
Josie Cain then snagged Jaqueline Conlan’s infield pop and followed that up with a sensational over-the-shoulder catch up a Bayleigh Wisher Texas leaguer in shallow right field to end the threat.
Baltimore got two quick outs in the seventh.
“I felt really good then,” Baltimore said.
Collierville wasn’t through.
Alex Dill was safe on another Collake error and Elena Maxwell beat out a slow roller to second.
“I was a little nervous there,” Baltimore said.
Not enough to loser her focus, though.
Baltimore struck out Burriss to end the game.
“It feels great to win our tournament,” Baltimore said. “We finished second last year, so we wanted to do better.”
The Lady Owls (16-5) missed scoring opportunities in the fifth and sixth innings that could have given them a better cushion over the Lady Dragons, who spent the night in Chattanooga before making the 6-hour trip back to Collierville on Sunday.
Elizabeth Novelli singled to start the Lady Owls’ fifth and Shelby Sutton put down a sacrifice bunt and both players were safe when first baseman Wisher’s throw to second was wide of the mark.
Cain sacrificed both runners up a base, but Cooper was called out for making contact with a pitch while stepping on home plate and Lemon lined out to third.
With two out in the sixth, Summer Williams singled to center and Bailey Kennedy singled to left. Novelli reached on third baseman Kari Kennel’s error to load the bases, but Gross, a sophomore, struck out Sutton to end the inning.
Gross scattered seven hits, struck out three and walked none in taking the tough loss.
The Lady Dragons march to the final game was in stark contrast to Ooltewah’s path. Collierville played in five straight shutouts – they won four by scores of 2-0, 1-0, 4-0 and 2-0 and lost to Marion County, 1-0.
“I’m proud of my kids,” Bradley said. “We had our chances here, but were just under a bunch of balls that turned into deep outs. We haven’t given up a lot of runs, but we’re just not hitting the ball. You’ve got to get a few hits to put some pressure on the pitcher. When we do that we’ll be OK.”
Collierville 000 000 0 – 0 4 3
Ooltewah 100 000 x – 1 7 3
Gross and Conlan; Baltimore and Williams.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)