MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – In muggy humidity and searing heat, Ooltewah’s Lady Owls gutted out a heart-stopping 10-inning 7-4 victory over William Blount in the opening round of the TSSAA Class 3A state softball tournament Wednesday morning.
The victory set up a showdown against Henry County about six hours later.
Kayla Boseman, who went the distance against William Blount, was in the circle again. She scattered seven hits and struck out 12 in a routine seven-inning performance that helped lead the Lady Owls (38-6) to a 4-3 win.
Ooltewah, which finished third in the state in 2015 when current seniors were freshmen, advanced to the winner’s bracket final against Powell on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. CT. A win there would push the Lady Owls into the championship game on Friday at 5:30 p.m.
“Kayla threw every bit as good as she did in the first game,” Lady Owls coach Jon Massey said. “We kept battling, hit the ball hard up the middle and played hard for 17 innings today. They weren’t going to have it taken away from them. I have to say that the umpiring in the second game left a lot to be desired.”
The morning game was every bit as difficult as it sounds.
The Lady Owls were down to their final out, final pitch.
Pressure was heavy. Ooltewah trailed 4-3 in the seventh inning, that deficit coming on Kas Dunn’s solo home run in the fifth inning.
Ooltewah’s junior catcher Cheyanne Sales faced a 0-2 count. Sales grounded a ball to deep shortstop. In the next chaotic seconds, Addy Keylon, who started the inning with a single and went to second on Ally Chernak’s sacrifice bunt, raced toward third.
Dunn, the William Blount shortstop, dived for the ball, got a glove on it and it rolled eight feet or so into foul territory. Keylon saw the carom and blasted toward home, tying the game at 4-4.
“I saw the ball rolling away and thought, ‘Oh, my goodness. That’s the run we needed to keep the game going. I wasn’t focused on being tired. I focused on helping my team.’ ”
Said Lady Owls coach Jon Massey, “Once that ball rolled away, I said, ‘Let’s let her rip. We had to go for it.’ We got fortunate later to win the game because the girls kept plugging away and good things happened.”
There was still work to be done.
Neither team scored in the eighth or ninth innings.
That changed in the 10th when the Lady Owls faced Lady Governors reliever Emilee Braden, a sophomore.
Ally Chernak started on second.
Ooltewah’s Kayla Boseman, who pitched all 10 innings, ripped a run-scoring double to left-center field. With Alyssa White running for Boseman, Sales blasted a RBI single through the right side and White jogged home. Sydney White reached on a fielder’s choice and was balked to second. Mabry Carpenter hit to right scored White.
Boseman (22-1) trudged to the circle for the 10th time.
“I was going to do everything I could to help win this game,” Boseman said.
William Blount’s McKenzie Henry was on second base. A Boseman wild pitch sent her to third.
The hard-throwing Mississippi State softball signee struck out Brooke McMahan on a wicked rise ball that was over the batter’s head by the time Sales caught the ball. One out.
Heather Robinson flied out to right in foul territory. Two outs.
Kalie Barron, on a 1-2 pitch, grounded to Sydney White at shortstop and her throw to first baseman Tyler Sullivan to end the nail-biting game.
“I’m telling you, Kayla gutted this one out,” Massey said. “They all gutted it out. Now go get something to eat and get somewhere with air condition," Massey told his players. "And relax and come back ready to play."
Ooltewah got exactly what it wanted early – three first-inning runs.
Keylon singled and Chernak and Boseman each were safe on infield errors. Sales’ single up the middle scored two runs and Makayla Strickland drew a bases-loaded walk for the third run.
After that, however, the Lady Owls’ fruits at the plate soured. They managed just three base runners, none of which got past first base against William Blount starter Kelsey Darnell, over the next five innings.
Meanwhile, the Lady Governors (33-7) roughed up Boseman for three runs in the third inning to tie the contest. They scored on a sacrifice bunt, Boseman’s throwing error and her wild pitch.
When Dunn belted her leadoff homer in the fifth, the wind in Ooltewah’s sails suddenly vanished. The Lady Owls overcame the dejection with the clutch seventh inning heroics and reached deep for the game-winning runs in the 10th.
“Pitching coach Alicia Raymond talked to Boseman between the eighth and ninth innings and asked if she could keep going,” Massey said. “We had McKenzie Patterson ready, but Kayla said she was ready to go.”
Said Boseman, “I told them I was all right and wanted to finish the game. Tying the game, and I knew number nine (Sales) was going to come through for us in the clutch. In (William Blount’s) last inning, I knew that runner on third didn’t mean anything. All we needed was three outs.”
The Lady Owls got them.
“This was huge,” Massey said. “You just can’t drop into the loser’s bracket after one game. Nothing’s impossible, but we needed to win this game.”
Now, Ooltewah fans will wait anxiously to see if their Lady Owls can respond in a matter of hours and possibly go through all that again.
Ooltewah 4, Henry County 3: Henry County broke a scoreless duel with a three-run third inning, highlighted by Kaylee Marr’s two-run home run. Moments earlier, Caroline Hudson’s double scored Gracy Osborn with the game’s first run.
But that was it for the Lady Patriots. Boseman shut them down the Lady Owls’ offense kicked into high gear.
Boseman pulled the trigger, slamming a solo homer in the bottom of the third.
Ooltewah hit Henry County with a three-run fifth.
Ally Chernak stroked a one-out double and Boseman walked. Cheyanne Sales reached on an error and Chernak and Sales scored. Sullivan grounded into a fielder’s choice and courtesy runner Annalee Moore raced home with the go-ahead run.
“Henry County swung the bats as well as anybody we’ve played,” Massey said. “It’s a good team. Their shortstop is going to UT and she’s a solid player.
“Powell is a very good team and we’re going to have to play really well to have a chance. We won and that’s the bottom line, so we’ll regroup and refocus because we played a lot of softball today. We played a lot of good softball.”
Massey had a few examples.
“Addy made a catch in center field and fell over that little fence,” he said. “That would have been a grand slam, but she made a great play.”
There were a few disappointing moments, too.
“We had the bases loaded and Cheyanne hits a rocket their first baseman caught it and threw home to force out a runner,” the coach said. “Sydney hits a line-drive double and the ball hits the chalk and I thought we were in good shape. The umpires huddle and change the call. Tyler singles and that would have scored Sydney. The umpiring was awful.”
What’s the scouting report on Powell (40-7)?
“They’re a very good team,” Massey said. “It should be a battle and we’ll see what happens.”
Ooltewah 003 010 000 3 – 7 11 4
William Blount 003 010 000 0 – 4 6 4
Boseman and Sales; Darnell, Braden (9) and Henry.
Henry County 003 000 0 – 3 6 5
Ooltewah 001 030 x – 4 7 1
Brown and Hudson; Boseman and Sales.
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)