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)


Seniors Lead Lady Vols Past UGA, 70-59

Tennessee returned to its winning ways on Thursday night with a 70-59 victory over Georgia. The Lady Vols (24-4 overall, 14-1) bounced back after their first conference loss of the season at #2 South Carolina on Monday with a well-balanced performance at Stegeman Coliseum. Senior  Cierra Burdick  posted a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. It was Burdick's ... (click for more)

Dalton State Basketball Clinches A Tie For SSAC Title

The (6) Dalton State basketball Roadrunners (25-3, 15-2 SSAC) clinched a share of the conference regular season championship Thursday night with a 24 point, 83-59 win over College of Coastal Georgia. The Mariners connected on 8 of 12 free throw attempts in the first half to stay within two points of the Roadrunners at 38-36. Coastal Georgia was held to just two of 16 second ... (click for more)

Case Against Red Bank Officer In Beating Of Hispanic Man To Go To Grand Jury

The Hamilton County District Attorney General’s Office has reviewed the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report regarding Red Bank Police Officer Mark Kaylor and the case will be submitted for consideration by the Hamilton County Grand Jury next week, District Attorney Neal Pinkston. Officer Kaylor was seen on his squad car dash-cam hitting an Hispanic man seven times while ... (click for more)

Rodriquez D. Jones, 23, Shot On Glass Street Early Friday Morning

Rodriquez D. Jones, 23, was shot early Friday morning on Glass Street.   Chattanooga Police responded at approximately 2:30 a.m. to  2211 Glass Street (corner of Glass Street and Dodson Avenue) for  a call of a person shot and upon arrival found a single individual suffering from a single gunshot wound.  The victim was found at 2208 Glass Street ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Has Always Been A Battleground Between Good And Evil

From the thousands slain in nearby Chickamauga Battlefield during the Civil War…  To the launching point of the Cherokee Indian’s Trail of Tears…  To the lunch counter sit-ins led by Howard School students — the only high school student sit-ins in the nation — during the Civil Rights Movement…  To Walter Cronkite calling the polluted Southern industrial town ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Our 92-Year-Old Victim

It is with great pride, and far greater relief, that I can report a “caretaker” is far different than a “boyfriend.” A story out of Memphis earlier this week morphed into a virtual fireball that had such power it appeared on the front page on a London newspaper and other news outlets all around the world when it was reported by the Associated Press a 28-year-old man had assaulted ... (click for more)