After falling to Soddy-Daisy in the winner’s bracket final Wednesday, the Lady Mustangs had to have Thursday’s loser’s bracket final put off until Friday due to graduation.
That meant Coach Lauren Limburg’s “Fillies” would have to win three straight games that evening to capture the District 5-AAA crown.
After a valiant, 10-inning effort to slip past the host Rhea County squad 2-1, the emotionally-drained Lady Mustangs had uncharacteristic struggles in the field and at the plate in suffering their worst defeat (9-2) of the season against the three-time defending state finalists in the title game.
“I’m super proud of the way we fought, especially in the first game, but it’s hard to comeback from an emotional win like that to turn right around and face two more games,” expressed Limburg.
“Our main goal was to get into the region tournament, but it wasn’t easy,” she added. “Rhea came ready to play and it took an tremendous pitching effort from Sidney (Hooper) and some very well played defense.”
“We struggled at the plate in both games with our pitch selection,” the Lady Mustang mentor expressed. “We are going to continue to fight and find a way.”
Now 26-6 on the season, Walker Valley faces the same challenge it did last season — a trip to Manchester Monday at 8 p.m. EST to face District 6-AAA champion Coffee County (26-9).
The Lady Red Raiders brought Walker Valley’s season to a close last in the same spot last year on their way to a Top 4 finish in the TSSAA State Tournament.
“They (Coffee) didn’t lose many off that team, so they will be tough, especially playing them over there,” commented Limburg. “They are a great team with great pitching.”
In Friday’s first game, Rhea County scored the first run in the top of the third inning.
The Lady Mustangs finally got on the scoreboard in bottom of the fifth when sophomore sensation Hallie Davis blasted her 13th home run of the season to even the score.
However, neither team would cross home until the 10th inning, after the international tie-breaker rule was in use.
With a runner placed on second base to start the at bat, Rhea County tried to bunt her over to third, but Lady Mustang third baseman Bayleigh Morgan made a diving catch of the short pop up to hold the runner.
The next Lady Eagle was able to move her teammate to third on a comebacker to the circle, but Hooper notched her eighth strikeout of the contest to end the threat.
In the bottom of the frame, junior Alex Rominger was the base runner on second for Walker Valley. After Davis worked a walk, junior Baylee Boen beat out a bunt that jammed the sacks.
Hooper stepped the plate and secured her 20th pitching victory over the season with a sacrifice fly to plate Rominger.
Now 20-4 with a 1.32 earned run average on the season, the Austin Peay signee went the whole 10 innings in the circle, scattering a half dozen hits and walking just two.
The Lady Mustangs managed just five hits off the Rhea offerings with sophomore Mackenzie Elrod going 2-for-3, while classmate AJ Chancey roped a double to join Davis with the team’s only extra-base hits. Morgan had the other hit in the victory.
Coming into the tournament as the No. 1 seed, Walker Valley got to be the home team in the title matchup with Soddy-Daisy (27-11), but even that didn’t help.
The second-seeded Lady Trojans dropped their first two meetings with the “Fillies” by scores of 4-2 and 7-6 during the regular season, but bounced back Wednesday with a 6-2 win.
Soddy jumped on top quickly in the title tilt, scoring four times in the top of the second.
Adding solo runs in the fourth and fifth frames, the score read 6-zip before Walker Valley got out of the gate with a run of its own in the bottom of the fifth and another in the next at bat.
The Lady Trojans put the nail in the coffin with a 3-spot in the top of the seventh.
Walker Valley managed just four hits off of winning pitcher Ashley Chaney (16-4), plus committed five fielding errors.
Chancey and Morgan both had RBI-hits for the Lady Mustangs, while Hooper and sophomore Lara Bean had the other two one-base knocks.
Rhea County 001 000 000 0 — 1 6 2
Walker Valley 000 010 000 1 — 2 5 1
WP: Sidney Hooper (20-4) 10 IP, 8 Ks, 2 BB, 6 hits, 1 ER. LP: n/a. HR: Hallie Davis (WV). 2B: AJ Chancey (WV). RBI: Hooper, Davis (WV). Highlights: Mackenzie Elrod 2-3, Davis 1-3, HR, RBI, run, 2 BB (WV). Records: Rhea County 23-18; Walker Valley 26-5.
Soddy-Daisy 040 110 3 — 9 11 0
Walker Valley 000 011 0 — 2 4 5
WP: Ashley Chaney (16-4). LP: Alicia Raymond. HR: Tori Denayer (SD). 2B: Chaney 3 (SD). Highlights: Chaney 3-4, 3 2B, RBI; Haley Reynolds 2-4, RBI; Olivia Williams 2-4 (SD); AJ Chancey 1-3, RBI, run; Mackenzie Elrod 1-3, RBI; Baylee Boen 1-3, Lara Bean 1-2 (WV). Records: Soddy-Daisy 27-11; Walker Valley 26-6.