STERLING — The Lady Tigers squeezed past Chattanooga 8-7 Tuesday with a seventh inning, bases-loaded ground ball that provided the winning run.
The win improved Sterling’s slow pitch softball record to 3-1.
After Chattanooga sent Ashlyn Clift to first with an intentional walk to load the bases, Shelby Pearson hit a ground ball to the third baseman who threw to the catcher at home plate. The throw pulled the catcher away from the plate, allowing Sterling senior Emma Nunley to score the winning run.
Freshman Ellie Pierce clobbered a home run to lead off the sixth to tie the score 7-7 after the Lady Tigers had trailed 5-2 early in the game. Sterling stormed back in the bottom of the fourth with four runs to take a 6-5 lead before Chattanooga bounced back with two runs in the top of the fifth to lead 7-6.
Pitcher Shelby Spence was credited with the win in the circle. She gave up four earned runs off 13 hits while walking four batters.
Sterling scored its eight run on 10 hits and benefitted from five Chattanooga errors.
Sterling was scheduled to finish play in the Fort Cobb Tournament March 10. After a week off with spring break, the Lady Tigers will resume action March 20 when they travel to Fort Cobb followed by a home game against Cache March 21. The Lady Tigers will play in the Binger Tournament March 23-24.
Lady Tigers win 2 at festival
In the season opening Dibble Festival, Sterling lost to Mustang 8-3 but rebounded with consecutive wins over Southmoore junior varsity and Norman North. The Lady Tigers defeated Southmoore JV 6-1 and squeezed past Norman North 15-13.
Sterling pitcher Shelby Spence was credited with the two wins and lone loss. Meanwhile, Lacy Spence had a big day at the plate with five hits in eight at-bats during the festival.
Lady Tiger head coach Van Monroe expects his team will return to the state tournament this season.
“We have a chance to be pretty good,” he said. “It’s basically the same team as last year with one exception.”
Sterling ended its playoff run in 2022 with a loss in the regional tournament championship matchup.
Returning starters include senior Emma Nunley at shortstop, junior Morgan Curry at third base, junior Kinley Geiger at second base and Shelby Pearson at first base.
Playing the outfield will be Lacy Spence in left field, Ashlyn Clift in center and Grace Milam in right field. Shelby Spence is slated to start most games in the circle.
So far, Monroe said the teams has had its “ups and downs” largely because the Lady Tigers have only practiced together for less than a week due to the basketball team advancing to the Class A Area Tournament. Most of the softball players also were on the basketball roster.
Sterling’s top hitters from last year – Nunley, Curry and Shelby Spence – are expected to lead the team once again at the plate. Clift and Pearson also had big seasons hitting the ball in 2022. Curry led the team in home runs with nine.