When it comes to statewide competitive success among District 5-AAA high school athletic teams, Soddy-Daisy softball comes as close to a dynasty over the last 15 years as the league can offer.
In the last 12 years, the Lady Trojans have made 10 state tournament appearances, winning it all six times. In the two years it didn't make state, Soddy-Daisy lost in the sectional round -- one win from a berth in the Spring Fling.
So, it’s easy to declare that Soddy-Daisy softball is an honest-to-goodness state championship contender on an annual basis.
That doesn’t impress Lady Trojans coach Wes Skiles as much as what his squad had done in recent weeks.
“We don’t really focus too much on the past,” said Skiles, an assistant for six years before taking over for the retiring Clifford Kirk after the 2012 season. “If what you did yesterday still looks big to you, then you haven’t done much today.
“The big thing about having past championships at Soddy-Daisy is the girls come in knowing they have to work hard.”
The Lady Trojans tacked on two more state championships in 1991 and 1999, giving them a total of eight, according to the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association web site.
On Monday at Clifford Kirk Stadium on the Soddy-Daisy campus, the Lady Trojans, the District 5-AAA tournament champions, continue their bid for a ninth championship when they host Rhea County in a Region 3-AAA semifinal game at 5 p.m.
The Lady Golden Eagles will go into the game as the District 6-AAA runner-up, having lost to Cookeville, 11-2, in the title game.
Walker Valley’s Lady Mustangs, who lost to Soddy-Daisy, 7-5, in the tournament championship game, will play at Cookeville. Walker Valley beat Cookeville, 2-0, earlier in the season.
In the baseball playoffs, District 5-AAA champion Bradley Central plays host to Cookeville at 7 p.m. and runner-up Soddy-Daisy hits the road to play Warren County at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time.
Bradley and Soddy-Daisy each has one state baseball championship – the Trojans in 1977 and Bears in 1994.
The Lady Trojans (32-8), coming off their 13th straight district tournament title, 10th region crown dating to the 2002 season against the District 6-AAA runner-up.
Soddy-Daisy lost the first district title game to Walker Valley, 5-3, before coming back the following day and posting a 7-5 win to clinch the crown.
The Lady Trojans depend largely on freshman Shonna Penney to control the opposition bats while calling on Haley Reynolds to provide much of the offensive punch.
Penney (16-3) gave up a three-run homer to the Lady Mustangs’ Hallie Davis in the seventh of Wednesday’s title clash, but retired the next three batters to preserve the victory.
Penney has struck out 108 in 115 innings and goes against Rhea County in the semifinals with a 1.88 ERA.
Junior Emily Edwards is No. 2 pitcher behind Penney and can hold her own with most any opposing team. She has a 16-5 record with 75 strikeouts in 110 innings and a 2.09 ERA.
When one relieves the other, they’re just as effective. Penney has five saves and Edwards 3.
Reynolds is batting .538 and has driven in 38 runs. Of her 64 hits, Haley has 18 extra base knocks – 10 homers, six doubles and two triples.
The two teams met during the first week of the 2014 season, with the Lady Trojans winning 8-2 behind Edwards’ complete game effort, but Skiles believes both teams have improved since then.
“I think both of us are two totally different teams now than when we played earlier,” he said. “We can go on some of that game, but (assistant coach) Jackie (Freeland) does a good job calling pitches and she’ll read their players once they’re in the box.
“We just have to give 100 percent effort no matter who we play.”
Cookeville (27-8) at Bradley Central (21-11)
The Bears are making their second appearance in the baseball regional, the first coming in 2008, Adams’ first year leading the program.
To outsiders, it may come as a surprise Bradley is hosting the Cavaliers.
“I thought that was pretty much a toss-up game over there for the championship,” Adams said. “It looked like – we scouted the game – Warren County threw more of a top-line (pitcher) at Cookeville. They do some really good things, but I don’t feel like we’re overmatched. I’m more concerned with how we play and what we can control.”
Cookeville coach Brent “Butch” Chaffin expressed some trepidation about having to play on the road after his team’s disappointing loss in the 6-AAA title game.
“It’s a daunting task to go to Cleveland and play Bradley Central,” Chaffin is quoted as saying in the Herald-Citizen. “Travis Adams does an unbelievable job. He’s a great young coach and a good friend of mine.
“They’re gonna be ready and we’re gonna be ready to go on the road. I’m not so sure if we’re better on the road than we are at home. I think my guys like going into that hostile environment and trying to take advantage of it.”
The Bears, the 5-AAA tournament’s No. 2 seed, are still riding the wave of confidence built with a 1-0 win over Soddy-Daisy for the championship. Bradley won the game on Ty King’s three-hit shutout and Austin Calfee’s run-scoring single with one out in the seventh inning.
“They’re still up,” said Adams, the family’s third-generation high school baseball coach following his father, Joe Adams, and grandfather J.B. “Ace” Adams. “Winning the tournament was a confidence boost for them for sure.
“After they beat East Hamilton they knew they were in the region, but beating Soddy-Daisy gave them a boost in terms of what they can do. But now we’ve turned the page and looking forward to the region tournament.”
In 2008, the Bears reached the sectional round where they lost to Oakland on a ninth-inning, walk-off home run.
“I still replay that one over and over,” the Bears’ coach said.
It’s likely King will get the start against the Cavaliers, but Adams also has Chandler Hamilton (6-2) and Brett Standifer (3-0) at his disposal.
King is the ace.
He’s 7-0 with a 0.46 ERA, having allowed just four earned runs all season, with 84 strikeouts in 61 innings. King struck out nine and walked two in the complete-game win over Soddy-Daisy.
Seth Lee is 2-4 with a save and the Bears’ No. 1 reliever.
Offensively, Jacob Barnes leads the team with a .342 batting average, with Logan Blackwell coming in at .329 and Baylor Terrell at .325. Jordan Timmons checks in at .304 after raising his average nearly 100 points in the district tournament.
Barnes and Caleb Pace share the team lead with 18 RBIs apiece. Pace has 30 hits this season and 10 were for extra bases, including a team-leading nine doubles.
“This team has no individual that’s getting all the accolades, going to the big-time college or anything like that,” Adams said. “It’s about a lot of role players and they’ve bought into that.
“And if we’re clicking on all cylinders we can be pretty good.”
Soddy-Daisy (20-16) at Warren County (17-21)
The Trojans are making their second straight trip to the regional and they had to work hard both years.
Coach Jared Hensley’s club was the No. 7 seed a year ago and finished second to Ooltewah. This time around Soddy-Daisy was the three-seed and won three consecutive one-run games, including the first on a Dev DeMatteo solo home run in the seventh inning, before losing by a run to the Bears on Wednesday.
The Trojans have enjoyed a little down time in the last few days.
“We caught our breath,” Hensley said. “Last week was a roller coaster. The booster club fed the guys hamburgers and hot dogs Thursday after school and then I sent them home. We had a good practice Friday, hit early Saturday and we’ll have a batting practice session under the lights Sunday night.
“I know it’s going to be Mother’s Day, but a good Mother’s Day gift would be us going over there and winning a ballgame.”
It appears that Hensley has got a handle on using the regular season as a grooming tool for postseason runs the last two years.
“Coach (Steve) Henry always tells me it’s all practice until the tournament,” Hensley said. “Warren County has a good group of seniors. We saw their game with Cookeville and they play hungry. They’re well-coached and play hard.”
While Hensley had not definitely committed to Monday’s starting pitcher, the Trojans’ No. 1 guy is Christian Amos. The right-hander is 7-0 with a 0.56 ERA and has fanned 53 in 44 innings and five complete-game outings.
A one-word description of the Trojans’ district tournament is gutty.
After losing to Bradley, 6-4, in the second round, the Trojans beat Cleveland, 8-7, in 11 innings, knocked off Walker Valley, 3-2, and then squeezed past top-seed East Hamilton, 3-2, when Amos pitched out of a bases-loaded, no out jam in the seventh inning – a win that put them into the championship game.
“We were in a lot of situations throughout the back stretch of that district tournament were one home run could win the game – obviously, that was the case with DeMatteo,” Hensley said.
Andy Wright leads the Trojans with a .404 batting average while Tre Carter is hitting .350 and Dillon Clift .349. Sophomores Cale Morgan and Gavin Rogers are both just over .300.
Wright has 14 doubles and DeMatteo tops the team with 18 stolen bases.
Colin Kearney, a senior transfer from Walker Valley who started the title game, is 4-2 with a 3.08 ERA and he’s struck out56 in 38.2 innings.
Hensley senses a different attitude from a year ago as his players prepare to renew a bid to win the region championship.
“Last year we went to Cookeville really happy to be there considering the regular-season struggles we had,” Hensley said. “This year my guys are on a mission to go to Warren County and prove something.”
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)