By Steve Williams
The day after the rains came at this year’s Spring Fling, causing repeated delays in softball and baseball games and forcing tennis play to move indoors, TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress said he was particularly sorry for the Powell High softball team.
“Both Powell and Brentwood, because of the weather, had been there all day long,” said Childress when I ran into him at the state track meet the following day. “Powell was probably the first team to arrive at the ball park at about 8:30 in the morning.
“And the last game started at 11 o’clock or probably a little after last night and didn’t finish until 1:35 in the morning.”
Coach Jeff Inman’s Lady Panthers finally got to play their state opener (a 6-1 win over Henry County) late that afternoon, after it had been rescheduled from 10 to 11 a.m. and then from 11 to 2 and
2 to 4:30.
“The last game last night (Powell vs. Brentwood) started at 11o’clock or probably a little after and it didn’t finish until 1:35 this morning,” said Childress.
“We did give them an option to come back this morning and play at 8,” pointed out Childress.
“They mutually agreed they were going to go ahead and play because the losing team would go into losers’ bracket and have to play three games today. They just didn’t feel like they wanted to do that and were equipped to do that.
“But I can say this – for all of the coaches yesterday, I couldn’t have been dealing with a more cooperative group of people. They were very understanding, knowing that we couldn’t control the weather. It was unfortunate what happened, but it worked out and they ended up playing and tonight Powell plays Gibbs in the winners’ bracket finals.”
Yes, the Lady Panthers won the late, late game 9-2 and met district rival Gibbs in the all-important winners’ bracket finals around 6:30 that next evening. Powell led 2-1 after four innings, but Gibbs’ big bats came alive for three runs in the fifth and the Lady Eagles pulled away for a 6-2 victory.
That dropped the Powell girls into the losers’ bracket.
Childress mentioned the players had an easier time dealing with the rain delays and late night action than the fans (aka parents) and older folks who were involved. But that’s natural.
“It did not faze them,” said Childress with a chuckle. “You know how young people are. They were just as excited to play at that time. We did move back the starting time of Class AAA losers’ bracket games to 11:30 this morning to give them some more time to get rest. They were supposed to have started at 10 this morning.
“The kids were fine.
“A lot of these young ladies play late games on travel ball teams on weekends. There are a lot of tournaments in the regular season.
“I can’t say they (players) ever get used to it, but they just know it’s part of it.”
Childress recalled another game in the early years of the Spring Fling format in Chattanooga that was played even later.
“We had a state championship game years ago in Chattanooga between Hendersonville and Soddy Daisy that actually started at midnight. Both coaches and all of the kids wanted to play.”
Matthew Gillespie of the TSSAA said the inclement weather only affected tennis, softball and baseball.
HOW ABOUT THAT: As we all know, Powell came from out of the losers’ bracket to play Gibbs in the Class AAA finals, a seventh meeting between the two District 3-AAA teams this season.
Gibbs won the finale 7-5, giving the Lady Eagles their 10th state championship and a 4-3 record against the Lady Panthers this season.
“I think it’s fantastic that we have two Knoxville teams represented and two teams from the same district,” said Gibbs Coach Carol Mitchell. “It just shows that we have some really good ball players on our end of the state. It is satisfying.”
Christian Academy of Knoxville and The King’s Academy also contributed to the area’s softball success in Murfreesboro by repeating as state champs in Class AA and Division II-A, respectively.
STILL STREAKING: In baseball only CAK made it to the state tournament from Knox County this year, but the Warriors won the Class AA gold and continued Knox County’s streak of having at least one team in the TSSAA finals to 17 years in a row.