Ooltewah is going to state.
Powered by Kayla Boseman’s one-hit, 12-strikeout performance in the circle and a combined 8-for-10, three-run and two-RBI offensive punch from Boseman, Ally Chernak and Mabry Carpenter, the Lady Owls whipped visiting Lincoln County, 7-2, Saturday afternoon to win the Class 3A sectional for their third trip to the state softball tournament in four years.
“Our experience at state helps us, but we knew we can’t take any team lightly,” said Carpenter, who went 3-for-3 and scored once. “There’s a ring at the end of the tournament and we want to get it.”
Ooltewah finished third with a 40-10 record in the 2015 Spring Fling when a group of six current seniors were greenhorn freshmen. The Lady Owls returned in 2017 and won two games before losing to Gibbs and Henry County to end a 33-10 campaign.
Next week Ooltewah will ride a 10-game winning streak – it has won 13 of its last 14 – into the Class 3A state tourney and join fellow District 5-3A rival Walker Valley in the field. Walker Valley beat Coffee County on Friday, rallying for four runs in the top of the seventh to win.
“We were all a little nervous coming into the game,” said Chernak, who had two hits in four at-bats, scored twice and drove in a run. “But like always we came out and played the way we needed to play. We’ll probably hit a little on Sunday and then let all this soak in.”
Coach Jon Massey hesitated a split second when asked how the Lady Owls’ state tourney experience might pay off in Murfreesboro.
“Some of the teams will be different,” he said, “and I’m not sure it’ll help that much. I don’t think the stage will be too big for them now. These seniors were freshmen in 2015 and they were wide-eyed back then. Our juniors were eighth-graders. Last year we ran into a buzz saw against Gibbs and only time will tell about this year.”
The Lady Owls (36-6) staked Boseman (21-1) to an early lead when Chernak singled and went to second and third on walks to Boseman and Cheyanne Sales. Sydney White’s sacrifice fly pushed Chernak home with the game’s first run.
Ooltewah put Lincoln County, runner-up to Coffee County in the Region 4-3A tournament, in a big hole by scoring four runs in the second inning.
Carpenter started the inning with a single and Heidi Durham, the Lady Falcons’ starting pitcher, hit Makayla Strickland. Alyssa White, a freshman starting in right field for injured junior Aubrey Smith, grounded out and the runners moved to second and third.
After the putout at first, Bryant’s throw to third was off the mark and Carpenter raced home. Strickland scored on Chernak’s RBI single to left, Boseman tripled Chernak home and Anna Lee Moore, running for Boseman, scored on Bryant’s second error in the inning.
That gave Ooltewah a 5-0 lead.
“We all felt good today,” said Boseman, who sports a 0.88 ERA heading into state. “We came in with the energy we needed and di what we’re supposed to do against a really good team like Lincoln County. They battled all the way.”
Keylon was hit by a pitch starting the fourth inning and moved to second on Chernak’s groundout. Boseman, who also went 3-for-3, beat out an infield hit and Sales’ single to right gave Ooltewah a seven-run cushion.
On a 90-degree afternoon before a packed house of Jim Lovell Field, Boseman continued her sizzling postseason in the circle, handcuffing the Lady Falcons for six innings.
Boseman pitched three games this week, all wins, and struck out 43 batters.
She now has 251 strikeouts in 128 innings
The hard-throwing right-hander retired the first 10 Lady Falcons before hitting Anna Marie Thornton on a 3-2 pitch in the fourth inning. Thornton was retired at second when Sarah Koonce grounded to shortstop Sydney White and Boseman fanned Lydia Johnnsey to end the inning.
Shelby Bryant stopped Boseman’s bid for a fifth no-hitter with a single to right field leading off the fifth inning after a nine-pitch at-bat. Emma Summers and Kylie Reese each struck out and Heidi Durham grounded out.
The Lady Falcons went down in order in the sixth.
Sloppy Ooltewah defense in the seventh enabled Lincoln County (26-16-2) to score two unearned runs and avoid the shutout.
Koonce reached on Carpenter’s error at third. Johnsey smacked a one-hopper back to Boseman, who threw the ball into center trying to start a double play and the Lady Falcons wound up with runners at second and third, each of whom scored on infield groundouts.
Boseman fanned Reese to end the game.
“It feels great to return to the state tournament and I have a lot of confidence we can do it (win a title) this year with the group of players we have.”
Said Massey, before leaving the field with another sectional title in his back pocket, “The older girls have been around the block and they know what it takes to win. They’re gassed up and ready to go. We hit at Frost Stadium (Friday) and I thought they were ready then. Getting to Murfreesboro is always our goal. We’ll see what we can do.
Lincoln County 000 000 2 – 2 1 2
Ooltewah 140 200 x – 7 10 2
Durham, Bryant (3) and Koonce; Boseman and Sales.
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)