After Heartbreaking End To 2013 Season, Lady Trojans Are Back At State

Soddy-Daisy Softball Team Lost Assistant Coach, Sectional On Same Day

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - by Larry Fleming

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – A year ago, Soddy-Daisy’s Lady Trojans softball team was burdened with a collective heavy heart after the sudden passing of long-time assistant coach Lamar Lasley.

“We had some bad circumstances,” the school’s softball coach, Wes Skiles, recalled.

On May 20, 2013, life threw the softball team a curve.

Soddy-Daisy suffered a 4-1 loss to Smyrna in the sectional and in a postgame huddle Skiles had to break the news to his team that Lasley had died of a heart attack a few hours before the 2012 Class AAA champions took the field against Smyrna for the most important game of the season.

Win, go to state.

Lose, go home.

Lasley’s wife, Dana, told Skiles to take the team to Smyrna and play the game, but both decided it would be best if Skiles didn’t tell the players that their beloved assistant coach had passed away.

Instead, Skiles told the Lady Trojans that Lasley was battling a bad cold.

When the game ended, Skiles delivered the bad news.

Players and coaches from Soddy-Daisy and Smyrna gathered around the pitcher’s circle and a prayer.

Lasley’s death came a few days after former Soddy-Daisy coach, Clifford Kirk, who retired and became the coach at nearby Sale Creek High School, collapsed during a region final due to a heart attack. Kirk recovered from his attack.

Lasley, a coach for more than 35 years at Loftis Middle School and Soddy-Daisy High School – where he was on Kirk’s staff – died at the age of 60.

A year to the day later, Soddy-Daisy is in Murfreesboro preparing for its Class AAA state tournament opener against Collieville on Wednesday at approximately 1 p.m. at the Starplex softball complex.

Even if the Lady Trojans had gotten past Smyrna last season under extremely difficult circumstances, Skiles says now he isn’t sure they would have been up to playing in the state tournament and trying to win a ninth championship.

“If had won last year’s sectional, I probably wouldn’t have gone to state,” Skiles said Friday shortly after Soddy-Daisy rallied to beat Oakland, 5-4, in nine innings to land a berth in this year’s tournament. “I don’t think most of those girls would have gone. It was tough.”

But the Lady Trojans (35-8) are back.

The ordeal thrust on them last year is less of one today.

They arrived in Murfreesboro worry-free, mentally strong, and while they minds right now are on Collierville, some players from last year’s team may have thoughts about their former assistant coach running through their heads.

But now they have a new assistant coach – Jackie Freeland.

“Jackie has done wonders for this program,” said Skiles, who joined Kirk’s staff in 2007. “Her coming on board this year has really helped the girls with her expertise and she’s such a great person. That’s what I like about her more than her playing skills and stuff, the fact she’s a great person.”

Freeland played at Girls Preparatory School and the University of Alabama, and came to the Soddy-Daisy program with superlative credentials. She calls pitches for the Lady Trojans top pitchers – Emily Edwards and Shonna Penney, who have combined for the team’s 35-8 record.

Together with Freeman, the two coaches’ approach is centered around positive attitudes and that was evident in the victory over Oakland.

The Lady Chiefs had taken a 4-2 lead in the top of the seventh on Abby Sargent’s two-run home run.

The Lady Trojans wouldn’t go quietly into the night though.

Brooke Hale reached on an error and with two out Haley Reynolds ripped a double to left-center. Grayson Brown walked.

Shana Ward worked Oakland pitcher Lacie Rinus to a 1-2 count.

Soddy-Daisy had one out and one strike to work with.

Ward’s single to center tied the game.

In the ninth inning, Cameren Swafford, who had singled, scored on Ward’s squeeze bunt and the Lady Trojans walked off with a thrilling 5-4 victory.

“A ballgame is full of swings back and forth,” Skiles said, “and what you have to do when it doesn’t swing your way is to keep a positive attitude. I can’t guarantee you a positive attitude is going to get you positive results, but I will guarantee you if I came over here with a negative attitude we would have gotten negative results.

“Jackie and I both have been in so many games that our faces are what the girls see. These kids come out here and give me a great attitude and they gave me great effort. It was awesome.”

In a way, the ending of last season has affected the Lady Trojans in 2014.

“The way it ended so negatively last year, with the loss of life and having to plan a funeral,” Skiles said, “I’m glad the girls get to experience a state tournament. We keep things in perspective. This is just a game. They learned that last year and I think that’s why they played so loose this year.

“It’s just a game.”

(E-mail Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)



Randy Smith: Butch's Last Stand?

There are some media pundits who may know a lot more than I do that believe this weekend's Tennessee-Georgia game in Knoxville will be the last stand for Vols' coach Butch Jones. The 7th ranked Bulldogs are favored to win the game  Saturday  afternoon at Neyland Stadium, which would snap a two game losing streak to the Volunteers. Unranked Tennessee is coming off of ... (click for more)

Chattooga High Hosts 5th Annual Bobcat Cheer Extravaganza

Nearly 450 cheer athletes of all different ages tumbled, danced and cheered on the mats at Chattooga High School  on Monday  night for the fifth annual Bobcat Cheer Extravaganza, presented and hosted by Georgia Northwestern.  Recreation teams, middle school teams and high school teams, both varsity and junior varsity, performed and competed in three ... (click for more)

State Finds Photos Of Guns Used In Lookout Valley Murders On Morse's Phone, But Defense Says It Got Evidence Too Late

Prosecutors said Monday that there were six photos on the phone of Derek Morse of guns tied to the murder of three people at a Lookout Valley trailer park. However, defense attorney Dan Ripper said the phone should have been checked out years ago - not on the eve of the trial. He said he got the photos last Monday - the day before jury selection began. Prosecutor Lance ... (click for more)

Opportunity Zone Begins Effort To Transform 12 Low-Performing County Schools

The Hamilton County Department of Education announced the new Opportunity Zone team that officials said "will ensure every student is post-secondary ready." The schools in this zone are: Brainerd High, The Howard School, East Lake Middle Academy, Dalewood Middle, Orchard Knob Middle, Barger Academy of Fine Arts, Calvin Donaldson Environmental Science Academy, Clifton Hills ... (click for more)

Titans Hide In The Locker Room

This Sunday, as has been widely reported, the Tennessee Titans and the Seattle Seahawks both chose to remain in their respective locker rooms during the playing of the National Anthem at Nissan Stadium.  Besides the fact that the NFL game operations manual has a rule regarding player behavior during the playing of the National Anthem which requires them to stand at attention ... (click for more)

Roy Exum - Why Al Took A Stand

“Help me, sir!” 18-year-old Jesse Dietrich cried to his lieutenant. “Please sir, I need help …” the Private First Class begged as blood streamed from where the kid had been shot in the chest during an intense Taliban ambush. The platoon leader had just dragged the 18-year-old by his backpack down a dark alley in withering gunfire, all the while returning fire over the fallen soldier ... (click for more)