MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Ooltewah’s disappointment in the TSSAA state softball tournament raised its ugly head for the third time in four years on Friday.
For five innings, the Lady Owls’ pregame strategy was still in effect. Coach Jon Massey wanted to get five or six innings from Mackenzie Patterson in the circle and then turn it over to Kayla Boseman.
The Lady Mustangs, who lost four of the five previous meetings, nursed a 2-1 lead when Boseman came on in relief. That’s when the Lady Owls' plan unraveled.
Hannah Cate Singleton greeted Boseman with a solo homer to start the inning, with the ball popping out of left-fielder Makayla Strickland’s glove and dropped on the other side of the fence for the go-ahead homer. Walker Valley added two more runs and stunned Ooltewah, 5-2, in the Class 3A loser’s bracket final.
Ooltewah ended the season with a 38-8 record.
“Nobody wants to lose the last game of the year,” Massey said. “We had another good year, but just came up short.”
There was nothing short about Singleton’s blast right down the foul line.
“This is the best feeling in the world,” Singleton said. “I wanted this so badly for the team. I’m in a rush right now and can’t stop crying. I think that’s about my eighth or ninth home run, but I know it’s the biggest I’ve ever hit.”
The Lady Mustangs (35-11) advanced to the championship game against Powell (41-7) scheduled for 3 p.m. Walker Valley would have to beat the Lady Panthers to capture the title.
Singleton and her teammates were going to enjoy the victory in the few hours they had before returning to action. After losing to Powell, 3-1, in the opening game in the 3A bracket, the Lady Mustangs won four in a row to reach the finals.
“After losing to Powell, we just knew we believed in each other and we’ve been working hard all year, and this still is unbelievable,” Singleton said.
Walker Valley pitching ace Natalie Pruitt recorded two quick outs in the first inning before intentionally walking Boseman. Cheyanne Sales followed with a single and Sydney White’s hit up the middle produced the Lady Owls’ first run.
With one out in the third, Walker Valley decided to pitch to Boseman, who hit a solo homer to center. Pruitt went back to the original plan in the fifth and intentionally walked Boseman a second time.
That was the last time Ooltewah even sniffed at scoring.
After Boseman second walk in the fifth, Pruitt retired Sales on a fly ball to right. In the either, Tyler Sullivan singled, but Mabry Carpenter popped out and Strickland grounded out.
Pruitt retired Ooltewah in order in the seventh.
The Lady Mustangs tied the game at 2-2 in the fourth. Katelyn Howell and Riley Suits each singled against Patterson, and both runners advanced on Sales’ passed ball. Singleton walked to load the bases.
Amanda Young drew a walk that scored Howell. Abbey Davis’ groundout pushed Suits across with the second run. Patterson struck out Carissa Frost and Michele Benson to get out of the inning.
It was Frost who hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning off Boseman to give the Lady Mustangs their only win over the Lady Owls prior to Friday’s game.
“We didn’t score enough runs early and didn’t hit the ball as well as we needed,” Massey said. “I thought if we could get to the sixth tied or one up we’d be ready to go by bringing Kayla in to pitch. Well, we were tied.”
Unfortunately, not for long.
NOTE: The parents of Kayla Boseman, involved in a postgame controversy after Thursday night’s loss to Powell, were originally told they would have to watch Friday’s game from the parking lot outside the perimeter fence around the complex.
However, a TSSAA official walked out to the area and invited them into the seating area so they could watch what turned out to be their daughter’s final high school game.
“There were just too many conflicting stories and it was the right thing to let those parents come in and watch the game with the rest of the Ooltewah fans,” the official said.
Ooltewah 101 000 0 – 2 5 3
Walker Valley 000 203 x – 5 6 1
Patterson, Boseman (6) and Sales; Pruitt and Suits
(Contact Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @larryfleming44)