Article courtesy of Larry Flemming from chattanoogan.com here**
Ooltewah’s baseball team found a long-lost friend Wednesday.
A potent offense.
The Owls punished rival Walker Valley in a mercy-ruled, five-inning blowout and routed the Mustangs 14-3, at A.C. “Bud” Ball Field before a large crowd to win the Region 3-3A tournament championship for the first time since 2006.
“We’ve been working hard on our offense and tonight we put things together,” Owls center fielder Jake Sullivan said. “We got some hits, scored some runs and things just added up. Look at the second, third and fourth innings. We scored six runs, three and five. That felt good.”
Ooltewah (29-6), which hasn’t reached the state tournament since 2012, will host Stewarts Creek (29-8) a Class 3A sectional Friday at 7 p.m. for the right to advance to the state tournament next week in Murfreesboro. Blackman beat the Red Hawks 6-0 to win the Region 4-3A title and snap the Red Hawks’ 15-game winning streak.
Walker Valley (23-13) will travel to Blackman (27-10) on Friday.
Austin Spurgeon went 3-for-4, all singles, scored three runs and drove in two for the Owls, who banged out 11 hits against four Walker Valley pitchers. Jake Sullivan was 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored and Bruce Matthews, the No. 9 hitter, went 2-for-2 with three runs scored and one RBI.
In softball action, Soddy-Daisy (31-13) edged Ooltewah 2-1 when Aminah Wood doubled and courtesy runner Alyx Howell scored on Courtney Daughtrey’s bunt for the game-winning run that nailed down the region title.
The Lady Trojans will host Coffee County in Friday’s sectional, tentatively set for 7 p.m.
It was Soddy-Daisy’s second straight walk-off win. The Lady Trojans scored four seventh-inning runs, the last coming on Hailey Woodcock’s RBI single, to beat Warren County 7-6 in the semifinals.
The Lady Owls (31-8) will travel to Lawrence County (27-11) in an attempt to keep their postseason hopes alive.
Lawrence County got a first-inning solo home run and made it stand up for a 1-0 victory over Coffee County (23-16) for the Region 4-3A championship.
Ooltewah 14, Walker Valley 3: The Owls delivered a sledgehammer blow to the Mustangs with a six-run second inning that chased starter Ethan Hailey.
Owls starter Trevor Wiggs, who checked Walker Valley on five hits in a complete-game effort, was hit by a pitch to start the big inning. After a stolen base, Spurgeon stroked a RBI single to left.
Jake Morrow was hit by a pitch. The Owls pulled a double steal and Spurgeon later scored on a wild pitch. Matthews walked and Andy Reed grounded to first and Morrow was thrown out at the plate. Sullivan walked Andrew Manning reached on an infield hit to load the bases. Hailey had Manning picked off first, but the umpire called a balk. A run scored and runners were at second and third.
Designated hitter Ethan Walls drove a two-run single to left to cap the outburst.
“I don’t think we had put together our best offense all season,” Matthews said, “but tonight we came close. I know we haven’t bunched hits and runs together like that.”
When the onslaught ended in the fourth inning the Owls had their second-best run production of the season, matching a 14-run outbreak against Lincoln County on March 25. Ooltewah’s top run total was 15 against Red Bank on March 18.
The Owls, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A by coachT.com, went into Wednesday’s game averaging 3.8 runs per game. They almost doubled that in the second inning.
“This definitely wasn’t what we expected and it certainly wasn’t reflective of Walker Valley and the battles we’ve had with them all year,” Owls coach Brian Hitchcox said. “We got some breaks like a full-swing chopper that rolls dead on the chalk (foul line), hits with runners in scoring position. We did take advantage of those breaks.
“We also knew Walker Valley wouldn’t go away. They came right back with three runs after we scored six.”
The Mustangs scored on a throwing error and Brady Swafford’s two-run single in the third, but Wiggs retired six of the last eight he faced to thwart any more damage.
“It really helped me to get that kind of run support,” Wiggs said.
In Ooltewah’s third inning, Spurgeon singled and scored on an error, Matthews laced a RBI single to left and Sullivan pushed another run across with a sacrifice fly.
Spurgeon drove in two fourth-inning runs with a single, he scored on a throwing error at the plate, and Sullivan slapped a two-run hit up the middle.
“They said they hadn’t played their best game against us this year, so it feels good that we’ve beaten them four times in a row.” Matthews said.
Said Hitchcox on Friday’s sectional game, “That’s what we have to do in our next game. Everybody will have to contribute with good at-bats and we’ll have to have good pitching and good defense. That will give us a chance.”