After galloping out to a 15-3 start to the season, the Lady Mustangs continued some recent struggles with a 6-5, nine-inning defeat at the hands of Ooltewah, dropping them to 10-8 since their strong start.
“We’ve got to keep fighting and trying,” declared an exasperated head coach Lauren Limburg. “We have got to do a better job of hitting in the clutch and playing defense. We’ve got to work harder to get better.”
The loss slips Walker Valley (25-11, 7-3 District 5-AAA) out of a tie for the district lead, while the Lady Owls (25-7, 7-3) are now knotted with them for third place as both squads are a game behind co-leaders Soddy-Daisy and East Hamilton, which had two league losses apiece.
The Lady Mustangs are slated to travel to East Hamilton this afternoon, weather permitting, and then host Ooltewah on Wednesday to wrap up regular season district play.
The teams had similar starts Monday with Lady Mustang leadoff batter Baylee Boen opening the contest with a single, then moving to second on a sacrifice bunt by Rachel Percy. After Hallie Davis moved her to third with a single, Boen scored on a sacrifice fly by junior AJ Chancey.
Ooltewah answered in the bottom of the first when Madison Russo started things off with a single, and advanced to second on a fielding error. After being bunted to third, she was able to come home on a groundout by Allie Jones.
The Lady Owls took the lead in their next at bat as Aubbie Collak opened with a single. Josie Cain brought her around to score with a two-out double. Ashunti Cooper then smacked a hard single to right field to plate Cain, but eventually scored herself on the same play, as the ball scooted past the outfielder and went all the way to the fence.
Walker Valley picked up a solo run in the top of the third when Boen once again led off with a single, was bunted up by Percy and came around to score on a double by Davis.
The Lady Mustangs put together a three-run rally in the top of the fifth to regain the lead. Percy led off the at bat with a solo home run over the center field fence before Chancey beat out an infield hit and junior pitcher Alicia Raymond helped her own cause with a single. After moving up a base on a groundout, Chancey and courtesy runner Sydney Venture both scored on two-out single by Mackenzie Elrod.
The hosts added a solo blast to tie the score in the bottom of the frame, when Jones left the yard over the left-center field fence.
Neither team scored again until Collak opened the bottom of the ninth with her third hit of the day and was bunted to second by Elizabeth Novelli. Shelby Sutton delivered the game-winning hit when the Lady Mustang outfielder got turned the wrong way and the ball fell in for a double to plate Collak.
Despite giving up 11 hits in the first five innings, Ooltewah ace Cameron Baltimore (12-4) went the distance to pick up the pitching victory, sitting down the last 13 Lady Mustangs in a row.
Raymond also pitched the entire contest for Walker Valley, scattering 10 hits, while both hurlers gave up five earned runs. Walker Valley stranded seven base runners, while the Lady Owls left just three on base.
Walker Valley 101 030 000 — 5 11 2
Ooltewah 130 010 001 — 6 10 0
WP: Cameron Baltimore (12-4) 9 IP, 2 K’s, 1 HBP, 11 hits, 5 ER; LP: Alicia Raymond 9 IP, 1 K, 0 BB, 10 hits, 5 ER. HR: Rachel Percy (WV); Allie Jones (O). 2B: Hallie Davis (WV); Josie Cain, Shelby Sutton (O). RBI: Mackenzie Elrod 2, AJ Chancey, Hallie Davis, Rachel Percy (WV); Allie Jones 2, Josie Cain, Ashunti Cooper, Shelby Sutton (O). Highlights: Baylee Boen 2-5, 2 runs; Lara Bean 2-3, HBP; Percy 1-3, HR, RBI, run; Davis 2-5, 2B, RBI (WV); Aubbie Collak 3-4, 2 runs; Cooper 2-4, 2 runs, Cain 2-3, 2B, RBI, run (O). Records: Walker Valley 25-11, 7-3 District 5-AAA; Ooltewah 25-7, 7-3 District 5-AAA.