“We’re ready to start the season,” Bradley Central assistant softball coach Terry McElhaney declared after the Bearettes’ 2010 campaign came to a close despite a hard-fought battle Monday in the District 5-AAA Tournament at Larry Haney Field.
“We’ve come a long way from the beginning of the season,” head coach Christie McElhaney echoed. “We lose a few seniors but we have been starting five freshmen all season and they have really matured.”
Bradley, event’s No. 5 seed, held the second-seeded Ooltewah scoreless until the fifth inning Monday, but a couple of errors led to three unearned runs which shifted the momentum to the girls in Red, who claimed a 4-1 victory to advance to tonight’s Final Four round.
“We had them on the ropes but we just couldn’t finish them off,” Terry McElhaney proclaimed. “You have to take your hats off to our girls. They came out fighting and weren’t just going to let Ooltewah walk all over them.”
The Bearettes had dropped their two regular season matchups with the Lady Owls, but jumped on the girls from just down I-75 quickly as freshman Makayla Ard opened the game with a ringing double.
After Whitney Brown sacrificed her to third, senior Emily Hilliard was hit by a pitch and when she stole second a few moment later the catchers throw sailed past the bag allowing Ard to come home for the game’s first score.
Bearette hurler Nikki Ramsey made that score stand up, allowing just a pair of hits and forcing the Lady Owls to strand five base runners in the first four innings.
In the bottom of the fifth, Ooltewah’s Sarah Brown led things off with a walk, and on the ensuing sacrifice bunt, things unraveled for the Black and Gold. Hilliard raced in from third base to field the ball cleanly but her throw to get the runner hit Bearette first basemen Tori Roberts, who was squatting to get out of the way, in the head, allowing the runner to reach base safely.
After getting checked out by the trainer, Roberts stayed in the game and fielded the next batter’s bunt to get the out at first but Ooltewah had runners at second and third.
A deep fly ball to right field by the next batter appeared to be a routine sac fly but the throw to the plate hit the lip of the infield grass between the batter’s box and the plate, taking a strange bounce and allowing a second run to score.
Ooltewah’s next batter left no doubt about her hit as it smacked the top of the scoreboard between the “Larry” and “Haney” for a solo home run.
The Lady Owls added another run in the sixth frame when Brown laced a two-out single to give the game its final score.
Despite seeing their lead evaporate, the Bearettes didn’t give up getting two runners on base in both the sixth and seventh innings.
Brown and Heather Lynn both stroked back-to-back one-out singles in the sixth but were stranded when Courtney Webb’s line drive blast over the right fielder’s head was miraculously snagged by the Lady Owl defender in a twisting, snow-cone catch.
“That was heartbreaking,” Coach Christie McElahney lamented. “Courtney hit a bullet. That was going to tie the game right there, but somehow she got her glove on it just enough to grab it.”
In the final frame, Megan Ward led off with a single and Callie Cross came through with a two-out hit but neither could come around to score.
“We got some good hits but we just couldn’t string them together enough for some runs,” the Bearette head coach assessed. “I hate it for the seniors that it’s over but it was an exciting game and gives us something to build on for next year.”
OOLTEWAH 4, BRADLEY CENTRAL 1
Bradley Central 100 000 0 — 1 5 4
Ooltewah 000 031 x — 4 4 1
WP: Taylor Baird (21-8) 7 IP, 7 Ks,1 BB, 2 HBP, 5 H, 0 ER. LP: Nikki Ramsey 6 IP, 1 K, 3 BB, 4 H, 1 ER. HR: Abby Daniels (O) 2B: Sarah Kelley (O). RBI: Daniels, Kelley (O). Records: Bradley Central 8-15; Ooltewah 29-11.