"Focused On The Zone" - Chattanooga State Softball Headed To Region Championship Game

Wednesday, May 11, 2022 - by Joseph Dycus
Chattanooga State's Cam Cernuto stands on first after tying the game in the fifth inning.
Chattanooga State's Cam Cernuto stands on first after tying the game in the fifth inning.
- photo by Joseph Dycus

White pieces of fluff swirled through the air on a cloudy Wednesday afternoon, and when frozen in a photo, this material gave the impression of a game played in the heart of winter. In reality it was over 80 degrees on a May afternoon. But standing in the batter’s box was a cold-blooded Ashlyn Holland, who was the second batter in the bottom of the sixth inning. 

 

As a fourth-year player at a two-year college, Holland drew upon experience from her hundreds of at-bats to draw a walk from Vol State pitcher Sidney Link.

There were several times when Holland could have hacked at a mediocre pitch, but instead she stayed patient and took her base. Chatt State eventually scored three runs in that frame and won 4-1.

 

“I feel like I’ve been in situations like that for four years now, so I’m kind of used to being in the big moments like this,” Holland said. “It’s important to get on so your teammates can get you home, and I think the key was making sure I kept my eye focused on the zone.”

 

Vol State threw the first punch of the day in the top of the third. They were able to get Madalynn Ray on against Chatt State’s fireballer Sam Ryan, and eventually moved that runner over to third. A groundout was enough to get a run across. Outside of that moment, it was a pitcher’s duel up until the fifth. 

 

On one side was Link, a lefthander who left Tiger batters perplexed with a variety of pitches. On the other side was the right handed Ryan, who used power and occasional off-speed pitches to keep Pioneer hitters guessing. 

 

“Sam is one of the best pitchers I’ve ever played with,” Holland said. “She’s always making crazy plays and throwing her tail off. She always gets the job done.”

 

The Tigers began to find cracks in Link’s repertoire in the bottom of the fifth. Catcher Maggie Knight began the inning by walking, and then pinch-runner Mia Apple stole second. Shortstop Jaden Ezell singled afterward to put runners on the corner. Soon after it was Cam Cernuto’s turn to take swings.

 

The nation’s leader in stolen bases during the regular season, she had been stifled at the plate in her previous at-bats. But on that day, with two outs to work with, she slapped a single into the outfield and scored Apple to tie the game. Had it not been for a spectacular diving grab by Vol State catcher A’Niya Boone after a Regan Hartley bunt, Chatt State may have even taken the lead. 

 

“Cam is always one of the ones who makes plays,” Holland said. “She always comes in clutch. She may not always start the game well, but she finds a way when the game is on the line.”

 

Ryan kept on dealing in the top of the sixth, and Chatt State entered the inning with an opportunity to take the lead. Left fielder Katlin Leverette singled, Holland walked, and then Link gave Jade Gainer a free pass to load the bases with no outs. There may not be a bat hotter than Amber Gainer’s in the tournament, and she made Link pay with a single that scored Leverette. 

 

Ezell went up to bat and skied a ball into left field, which scored one. On the relay back to the plate, the ball got away from Vol State and Amber Gainer slid home safely to score another run. Ryan, now equipped with a three-run lead, shut down Vol State in the top of the seventh to punch Chatt State’s ticket to the TCCAA region championship game. 

 

That game starts tomorrow at 12:30. If Chattanooga State wins the game, they will be crowned region champs. If they lose, a second game at 3:30 will be played. 

 

 

BOX SCORE:


VOL STATE.      001 000 0  -  1

CHATT STATE  000 013 0  -  4


WP: RYAN

LP: LINK

 

 

Do you have an opinion on this article, or have a story you believe needs coverage? You can contact the author at Joseph.A.Dycus@gmail.com or on Twitter at @joseph_dycus.


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