By Derek Harryman, staff writer
Aggressive base running.
The Coffee County Central Lady Raider softball team is known for it. And that is exactly what it used in the Region 4-AAA semi-finals to beat defending state champion Smyrna Monday night 1-0 in Manchester.
She didn’t know it at the time but when Grace Spellings scored on a passed ball in the bottom of the sixth inning Monday night at Central High School, she punched her team’s ticket to Wednesday’s region championship game and a birth in the sectional Friday night. The loss eliminates Smyrna from the postseason.
“Once I got to second [base] I made up my mind I was going to score,” said Spellings. “When I saw the catcher lose it I knew I was going to be safe.”
Junior Brianna Jones singled to left field to kick-off the half-inning before Spellings (running for Jones), took second on a wild pitch and stole third. She scored on a passed ball.
“I was sending her all the way,” said CHS head coach Terry Floyd. “Smyrna was having some problems so I wanted to take a chance and it was that time in the game. The girls are peaking at the right time and I knew we would execute.”
Jones picked up the win in the circle for CHS. She notched six strikeouts but admitted she didn’t have her best stuff.
“My defense did a great job tonight because they got a few hits off me,” said Jones. “I was motivated by their crowd but I was a little off… I knew my team had my back.”
Jones, who singled to start the game-deciding sixth inning, said she knew she had a hit when she saw the pitch.
“She threw me a change-up right down the middle and I saw it the entire way,” said Jones. “She got me a couple times with her rise-ball but I that time I waited for the right pitch.”
Haley Hinshaw, Brittany Williams and Anna Spellings also had hits on the night as CHS left runners stranded in the first, third, fourth and fifth innings.
Wednesday night at the Lady Raiders will travel to Murfreesboro to take on the Lady Patriots of Oakland at 6:30 p.m. in the Region 4-AAA championship game. A win in that game would mean hosting the Cookeville/Soddy Daisy loser. A loss Wednesday night would send the Lady Raiders to the winner’s home field, with a trip to the TSSAA Spring Fling on the line.
“I truly enjoy coaching this team,” said Floyd. “I know we will be ready Wednesday night, it is going to be a fun game. Winning this game [tonight] lets us play Friday and that is every softball team’s goal. We would love to win Wednesday and play at home but if we don’t it doesn’t matter; we still get to play Friday.”