MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – It was a rough day at the Division II-A girls state softball tournament for Silverdale and Chattanooga Christian. Both teams suffered one big inning by their opponents and quickly fell into the loser’s bracket, making the road back to title contention paved with potholes.
After a 45-minute delay starting their game, Chattanooga Christian took it on the chin, 9-1, against Grace Christian Academy of Knoxville at the Starplex softball complex. The Lady Rams had a 1-0 lead, but scored five runs in the fifth inning to put the Lady Chargers in a bind.
Later in the day and on the same field, Tipton-Rosemark came up with seven runs on six hits in a game-changing third inning and went on to beat Silverdale, 9-2.
With the setbacks, the Lady Chargers (22-13) and Lady Seahawks (26-8) will square off in an elimination game Wednesday at 10 a.m. CT. at McKnight Field 3.
Grace Christian 9, Chattanooga Christian 1: Grace pitcher Hannah Cooper stifled the Lady Chargers at every turn and Sydney Feistner’s grand slam in the big fifth inning galvanized the Lady Rams’ stranglehold.
Cooper mixed pitches brilliantly and effectively used a masterful changeup throughout the game.
“We haven’t seen a pitcher throw so many changeups to so many batters,” said Madison Vandergriff, who had two of the Lady Chargers’ five hits. “It was a different approach for us and it was a hard adjustment to make.”
Vandergriff had CCS’ lone hit – a first-inning single – through five innings and added another hit in the fifth, eventually scoring the team’s lone run on an error.
The Lady Chargers missed a scoring opportunity in the fourth when Vandergriff reached on an error and Madison Hollis was safe on a fielder’s choice. Savannah Ricketts’ sacrifice bunt moved the runners over, but Rachel Kay struck out and Lauren Kay grounded out.
“Their pitcher mixed her speeds and was really effective against us today,” CCS coach Lisa Gray said. “And the game swung on one swing for them. Our girls aren’t finished though. It’s a double elimination tournament and we’re going to keep fighting because that’s what we’ve done all season.”
With one out in the fifth, Shelby Rogers reached on an error and she scored on Jade Barfield’s hit. Kristin Hunt and Emily Buskey each singled to load the bases and Feistner hit a towering grand slam to left-center field.
Add in a RBI hit in the first and Feistner finished with five RBIs.
Knox Grace moved into the winner’s bracket final and will play Tipton-Rosemark on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.
Tipton-Rosemark 9, Silverdale 2: Lady Rebels’ pitcher Charli Rice, who came into the game with a 12-4 record and 1.28 ERA, retired eight of the first nine she faced and was in complete control.
Skylar Sheridan’s run-scoring single came in the fourth inning and Turner singled in the sixth, stole second, moved to third on a fly-ball out to left and came home when Sheridan popped out to second.
Rice finished with 11 strikeouts, six straight during one stretch, and walked one.
“It’s disappointing we played the way we did,” Lady Seahawks coach Tim Couch said, “but we’re very young. It was a team effort that we played that way. We have to figure out how to motivate the girls and win tomorrow’s game and move on.”
The Lady Rebels’ third inning started innocently enough with a walk. But Lexie Williams and Meredith Owen each singled to load the bases. Rachel Whitley delivered a two-run, ground-rule double and one pitch later Shelby Clifton ripped another ground-rule double to left.
The fifth run came home on one of three Silverdale errors and Emily Fisher capped the uprising with a two-run single.
“We’ve been here before and lost the first game,” Couch said. “In 2012, we did it and then got beat in the semifinals. In 2016, we lost the first game and got beat in the championship game (by Meigs County). It’s tough because there’s more pressure on you. You’re trying to get to where you want to be, but that first loss is hanging over you.
“We’ve got a good group of girls and good assistant coaches and we’ll do what we can to stay in this thing. We didn’t come over here just to leave on a stinking Wednesday.”
Knoxville Grace 100 052 0 – 9 11 3
Chattanooga Christian 000 001 0 – 1 5 1
Cooper and Ellison; Hollis and Blevins.
Silverdale 000 101 0 – 2 4 3
Tipton-Rosemark 007 101 x –9 10 0
Tankersley and Turner; Rice and Clifton.
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)