Loss to Kingston ends UCHS softball team’s season

Lady Devil catcher Halie Hawkins tags out a Kingston player at home plate during the sectional game played in Erwin on Saturday, May 19. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

Playing Kingston (25-6) in the sectional round with a state tournament berth on the line, the Unicoi County High School softball team (38-10) managed only three hits in a 4-1 season-ending loss on Saturday, May 19, in Erwin.

“Their pitcher (Emily Workman) was jamming us inside,” Lady Devil head coach Grady Lingerfelt said. “It was just one of those days. Some days you just don’t hit. She had some pretty good speed. She’s a good pitcher. We could never get anything going.”

Kingston got on the scoreboard first when Lexi Lawson hit an RBI-single with two outs to score Casey Gaines and give the Yellow Jackets a 1-0 lead after their first at-bat of the game.

The Lady Devils answered on their first at-bat. With two outs, senior Sydney Miller singled on a fly ball to second. Senior Tanya Chavez then hit an RBI-double to center, scoring Miller, and tying the game, 1-1.

The teams held one another scoreless in the second inning. It appeared the Yellow Jackets would go quietly in the top of the third, but put together a two-out rally that would prove to be the difference in the game.

Following two strikeouts by senior Lady Devil Halie Padgett, Kingston got a runner on base when Lenna Robinson singled to left field. Gaines then doubled to left, which brought up Lexi Lawson. Lawson didn’t waste the opportunity – hitting a three-run home run over the center field fence for a 4-1 Yellow Jacket lead.

“We had two outs before they got anyone on base,” Lingerfelt said. “I thought we were going to be able to get out of the inning.”

The Lady Devils’ best chance to score came in the bottom of the sixth inning.

“It was the perfect time in the lineup,” Lingerfelt said. “If we were going to do anything, that was the time.”

Junior Halie Hawkins walked, then senior Rylee Stiltner reached on a fielder’s choice. Unfortunately, UCHS couldn’t get a much-needed hit.

The Lady Devils also couldn’t get a runner on base in the seventh inning as Kingston held on for the win and advanced to the state tournament.

Miller, Chavez (1 RBI) and Padgett each had one hit in the game. Padgett pitched four innings and had 5 strikeouts. Junior Allee Griffith pitched for three innings with 1 strikeout.

Six seniors – Grace Ann Clark, Greta Raby, Chavez, Padgett, Miller and Stiltner – will graduate from the program.

“They are a great group,” Lingerfelt said of the seniors. “They provided valuable leadership for the team. The whole team was a great team to coach.”

• • •

The Lady Devils avenged their loss to Elizabethton in the District 1-AA championship with a 5-2 victory for the Region 1-AA crown on Wednesday, May 16.

“I thought we were more focused and we played really well that game,” Lingerfelt said. “We hit a good pitcher.”

This was Lingerfelt’s ninth region title in his 14 years as the Lady Devils’ head coach.

The Lady Devils started the title game on a high note with Miller’s two-run home run. Miller had her third RBI of the game in the top of the third when she hit a triple to right field, scoring Stiltner. UCHS then took a 4-0 lead when Miller scored on an RBI-single by Chavez.

Elizabethton scored their only runs of the game in the bottom of the sixth. The Lady Devils added an insurance run in the top of the seventh on a sacrifice bunt by Hawkins that scored Chloe Powers.

Miller was 3-4 with 3 RBIs in the game. Hawkins (1 RBI), Chavez, Griffith, Clark and Powers each had 1 hit in the game. Griffith earned the win in the circle and had 3 strikeouts.

The region championship gave UCHS the home sectional game against Kingston. Elizabethton lost to Knox Gibbs, 8-3, on the road in the sectional round on May 18.

UCHS track and field athletes compete at sectional

These athletes represented Unicoi County High School at the sectional meet recently held at Science Hill. They are, pictured from left, Megan Todd, Natalia Mendoza, Kenny Perciful, Kody Lewis, Halie Hawkins, Rachel Altemose and Alexis Harvey. (Contributed photo)

By Keeli Parkey

The Blue Devils and Lady Devils gave it their all, but they fell short of earning berths in this week’s Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association Spring Fling in Murfreesboro.

On May 11, Unicoi County High School track and field athletes competed in the Section 1 Large School meet held at Science Hill High School. This was the first sectional meet for UCHS athletes since the school moved into the large classification and for the first time since 2014, no Blue Devils or Lady Devils qualified for the state meet.

“The change in classification is very difficult for our program, but more so for our athletes,” UCHS head coach Megan Davis told The Erwin Record. “We do hold our kids to a very high standard and that standard has not been lowered at all. We are pushing our kids more than we ever have. But, we do have disadvantages going into a sectional meet because we are one of the smallest schools in this new classification. A lot of the schools who moved up and previously had multiple state competitors are now sending one or two, or not getting that chance.”

Blue Devil sprinter Kody Lewis competed in both the 100- and 200-meter races on May 11, finishing in ninth and 14th places, respectively.

“Kody ran personal bests in both events at sectional,” Davis said. “He has done that almost every meet. He is where we need him to be as a sophomore. He faced a lot of tough competition and we are proud of what he did.”

Also representing the Blue Devils was sophomore Kenny Perciful, who recently joined the team after moving to Unicoi County from North Carolina.

“Coming into a new school and making sectionals in the shot put was big for him,” Davis said. “We are excited to see what he can do for us next year.”

Junior Halie Hawkins, who earned a tie for fourth place in the state pole vault competition in 2017, missed out on another state berth by one place. Hawkins turned in a jump of 9’-6” at the sectional.

“We were disappointed by the results, but at the same time we are very proud of how Halie jumped all year,” Davis said. “She broke the school record this season. She has really put herself on a whole new level of vaulting with this year’s success.”

Also vaulting at sectional were senior Alexis Harvey and freshman Rachel Altemose.

“Making it to sectionals was a big step for both of them,” Davis said. “It was a good way for Alexis to end her UCHS career. For Rachel, competing against larger schools is a huge success for her and shows we are going in a good direction with our vaulting program.”

Senior Megan Todd raced for the Lady Devils in the 1-mile and 2-mile events.

“Megan ran well against some really good competition,” Davis said. “We were proud to watch her run. She ran a very good race in the mile on a very hot day. She finished her career out in a strong way.”

Junior Natalia Mendoza competed for UCHS in discus.

“Natalia threw well,” Davis said. “Again, with the new classification, she didn’t end with a high ranking, but the throws she had were successful for her. It was good to see her throwing at a high level after missing last season because of an injury. We are excited to see what she can do in her senior season.”

Despite the frustrations of the change in classification, Davis is hopeful about the future of UCHS track and field.

“It is unfortunate for our athletes and for a lot of programs who have moved up,” she said. “But, it is something we want to rise to the challenge of. Our goal, although we aren’t getting to state this year, will continue to be making it to Murfreesboro.”

Following the conclusion of the season, the Blue Devils and Lady Devils presented three athletes with team awards.

Jillian Taylor was the program’s 2018 Blue Devil Award recipient. Kody Lewis was chosen 2018 Blue Devil MVP. Megan Todd was chosen 2018 Lady Devil MVP.

Lady Devil softball team advances to region championship

Ashtan Vance races around the bases during the District 1-AA tournament. Vance’s home run in the opening game of the Region 1-AA tournament helped the Lady Devil softball team defeat Greeneville and advance to the tournament’s title game. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

The Lady Devils were almost down for the count, but a late-inning comeback kept their postseason alive.

After trailing Greeneville High School, the District 2-AA champions, the entire game, the Unicoi County High School softball team (36-9) rallied to score eight runs in their final two at-bats to win a do-or-die game in the semifinal round of the Region 1-AA tournament in Greeneville on Monday, May 14.

The Lady Green Devils got off to a very good start on Monday, scoring three runs in the home-half of the first inning. Greeneville later added one run in the second inning and another in the fifth.

With two outs in the sixth inning, the Lady Devils started to rally. Grace Ann Clark and Ashtan Vance both singled, then Chloe Powers hit a 2-RBI double for a 5-2 score.

After holding Greeneville scoreless in the bottom of the sixth, the Lady Devils came up to bat with their final three outs of the game. Rylee Stiltner singled, then Tayna Chavez reached on an error. Stiltner then scored on a single by Halie Padgett. Samantha Chavez then came to the plate with two outs. The pressure didn’t bother the freshman one bit as she doubled on a hard ground ball to center field, scoring her sister, Tanya, and Abbie Grindstaff who was running for Padgett to tie the game, 5-5.

The Lady Devils then took the lead, 7-5, when Vance hit a 2-run home run. Powers followed Vance’s home run with one of her own. UCHS went into the bottom of the seventh with an 8-5 lead.

Greeneville managed to get one run across the plate in the seventh, but that was all the damage they could do. UCHS held on for the 8-6 comeback victory.

Powers was 2-4 with 3 RBIs. Vance was 2-3 with 2 RBIs. S. Chavez was 1-1 with 2 RBIs. Padgett was 1-3 with 1 RBI. Clark was 2-3.

Thanks to the victory over Greeneville, the Lady Devils will play for the region title on Wednesday, May 16, against a familiar foe – the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones. UCHS will travel to ‘Betsy for the game, which is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Elizabethton, the District 1-AA champions, defeated Grainger, 9-5, on Monday to advance to the championship game.

Win or lose on Wednesday, the Lady Devils will play in a sectional game on Friday, May 18, with a berth in the TSSAA Spring Fling on the line. A region title gives UCHS a home substate game; a loss on Wednesday will send the ladies on the road for the sectional game. Knox Gibbs and Kingston are playing for the Region 2-AA championship. The Lady Devils will play one of those two teams on Friday depending on the results of both title games.

The ladies must win the sectional game to advance to the next week’s state tournament in Murfreesboro. A loss on Friday will bring their season to an end.

• • •

The Lady Devils went into the District 1-AA championship having not lost in the tournament. To win the title, they had to defeat Elizabethton one time and for most of two games on May 9, it looked like they would do just that.

In the first of what turned out to be a double-header in ‘Betsy, the Lady Devils held a 2-0 lead for a few innings before the Lady Cyclones rallied to win 9-2.

This forced the if-necessary game and, once again, UCHS took an early 2-0 lead just to see it disappear. This time, the Lady Cyclones tied the game in the bottom of the fifth, then took the lead for good in the sixth. Elizabethton went on to win the game, 3-2, and the district title.

UCHS tennis teams wrap up 2018 season

The Blue Devil tennis team, pictured above, ended the 2018 season in the District 1-AA tournament. (Contributed photo)

The members of the UCHS Lady Devil tennis team, pictured at left, recently completed the 2018 season in the District 1-AA tournament. (Contributed photo)

By Keeli Parkey

The 2018 season is in the books for the Unicoi County High School tennis program.

The regular season ended for the Blue Devils and Lady Devils during the first week of May with matches against Sullivan North, Johnson County, Elizabethton and Sullivan South.

The Lady Devils defeated Sullivan North in team competition, 5-4. Winning their singles matches were Brandolyn Thomas (9-8), Katyln Higgins (8-4), Katherine Altemose (8-3). Thomas joined forces with Winter Day-Honeycutt to win a doubles match (8-4). Higgins and Carson Moore also teamed up to win their doubles match (8-1).

“The girls did a great job during this match, playing tough and coming up with the win,” head coach Karla Keesecker said. “The boys lost to Sullivan North, but Ben Hensley and Chase Erwin played close matches just coming up short.”

Against Johnson County, UCHS won three singles matches. Taylor Thomas won (6-2) for the Lady Devils while Ben Hensley (6-3) and Matthew Sutphin (7-5) won their matches.

“Both teams lost to Elizabethon, but both Aaron Manzanares and Winter Day-Honeycutt played great close singles matches, both losing 6-8,” Keesecker said. “The team finished the season playing Sullivan South and took away two wins. Singles winners were Ben Hensley (8-4) and Natalia Hernandez (9-7).”

• • •

Blue Devil and Lady Devil players ended the season in the District 1-AA tournament held May 7-8 at Science Hill High School in Johnson City.

“Boys singles players were Matthew Sutphin and Aaron Manzanres,” Keesecker said. “Matthew played a fantastic first round match, but lost 4-6, 7-5. Aaron had a tough loss to Elizabethton’s Luke Carrser, but fought hard.”

Representing the Lady Devils in singles competition at the district were Altemose and Taylor Thomas.

“Katherine lost a tough one to Sullivan Central’s Natalie Scott,” Keesecker said. “Taylor Thomas played a great match, fought hard and had a great comeback against Elizabethton’s Reagan Armstrong. Taylor faced some really tough challenges during this match. I was very proud of the way she handled herself and how she battled during the match.”

Representing the Blue Devils in doubles competition at the district were the teams of Trey Hatcher/Noah Starnes and Hensley/Erwin.

“Hatcher/Starnes lost a tough match to Tennessee High,” Keesecker said. “Hensley/Erwin won their first round match, defeating Volunteer. 6-3; 6-2.  They had a very tough second round losing to the number one seeds from Tennessee High.”

The doubles teams of Brandolyn Thomas/Day-Honeycutt and Moore/Higgins competed for UCHS in the district tournament.

“Thomas/Day-Honeycutt had a tough first round match playing Dobyns-Bennett,” Keesecker said. “They played hard and did their best. Moore/Higgins played a long three-setter against Volunteer, coming out on top 6-2 in the last set. They lost their second round match against the number one seeds from Dobyns-Bennett, but tried hard and did their best.”

• • •

The UCHS tennis program celebrated the 2018 season with an awards banquet on May 9. Receiving honors from the team were:

• Ben Hensley and Brandolyn Thomas – Blue Devil Award;

• Chase Erwin and Katherine Altemose – Best Singles Player;

• Ben Hensley/Chase Erwin and Carson Moore/Katlyn Higgins – Best Doubles Team;

• Taylor Thomas and Matthew Sutphin – Most Improved Player;

• Winter Day-Honeycutt, Carson Moore, Trey Hatcher and Noah Starnes – District 1 All-Conference.

Blue Devil baseball season ends with loss at Greeneville

By Keeli Parkey

A loss in first round of the Region 1-AA tournament brought the 2018 season to a close for the Unicoi County High School baseball team (20-15).

Their second-place finish in the District 1-AA tournament last week sent a Blue Devils to Greeneville where they faced the District 2-AA champion Green Devils in the region tournament on Monday, May 14. In the do-or-die game, UCHS struggled at the plate and failed to score a single run as Greeneville won the game, 5-0.

“We didn’t have enough players make the necessary adjustments at the plate to give us a chance,” Blue Devil head coach Chad Gillis said. “We struggled to hit the ball solid against their pitcher and our approach never changed.”

Senior pitcher Clay Simpson (4-3) kept the Blue Devils in the game for several innings.

“Clay pitched well today,” Gillis said. “He dominated in the first 4 innings, but had a few walks that put runs across the plate.”

Senior Raben Reed and junior Garrett Manuel each had two hits in the game. Seniors Owen Nicholson and Caleb Wilson and junior Caleb Crain had one hit each.

• • •

The Blue Devils staved off elimination from the postseason with a 9-3 victory over Sullivan East in the losers’ bracket of the District 1-AA tournament on May 8 at Cardinal Park in Johnson City.

It was evident that his team wasn’t ready for the season to end from the first pitch of the game.

“I thought we came out ready to play in the game,” Gillis said. “Keaton (Casey) gave us five good innings and Ramon Avila came in and closed the game out. Both pitchers did all they could do to get us a win in game one. We came out hitting the ball well also. Nicholson led off the game with an inside the park home run and this gave us a spark to start the game. This would have been an easy game to come out and play lousy after getting beat up the night before. I thought the guys responded well as a whole.”

Casey (3-2), a junior, earned the win on the mound.

At the plate, senior Hunter Higgins was 3-4 with 4 RBIs. Sophomore Peyton Whitson was 2-3. Nicholson and Crain were both 1-2 in the win.

The win over East qualified the Blue Devils to the region tournament and sent them to play Elizabethton – a team they lost to 11-0 in the district on May 7 – for the district title. To win the district, UCHS had to defeat ‘Betsy twice.

The Blue Devils had a chance to defeat Elizabethton after they defeated East on May 8, but could not get the win over a Cyclone team that is playing its best baseball at the right time. ‘Betsy defeated UCHS, 7-1.

Avila (1-3), a sophomore pitcher for the Blue Devils, took the loss.

“Ramon came back out and started the second game against a hot Elizabethton team,” Gillis said. “He shut them down for three innings to protect our 1-0 lead. We made a couple mistakes and they got a couple base hits to put them up. I thought we fought hard for seven innings.  Ramon and Peyton Whitson kept their bats quiet until the late innings and that’s all you can ask for. Offensively, we had multiple opportunities to get runners across, but just couldn’t execute.”

• • •

Overall, Gillis said he felt that the 2018 season was a successful one for his program.

“I feel like we had a good season,” he said. “We won 20 games and beat some really good teams along the way.”

Unfortunately, the Blue Devils weren’t as solid on offense as they needed to be.

“I don’t think we ever found our rhythm at the plate all season, but we did pitch well the majority of the season,” Gillis said.

The 2018 season saw inexperienced players step up and provide valuable innings for the team.

“Some younger guys stepped up and filled some spots where we had injuries,” Gilli said. “I am very proud of how those guys prepared day in and day out to be ready when called on. This group won our second consecutive conference championship and earned a regional game and they should be proud of what they accomplished.”

Graduating from the program will be seniors Hunter Higgins, Owen Nicholson, Troy Podvin, Raben Reed, Clay Simpson and Caleb Wilson.

“We will definitely miss those seniors,” Gillis said. “They were the group that came in with me as head coach and they mean a lot to me and the program. All of those seniors will be successful in their baseball and education at the collegiate level.”

Defending state champions oust UCHS soccer team from postseason

By Keeli Parkey

A loss to the defending state champions brought the 2018 season to an end for the Unicoi County High School soccer team (6-5-1).

Playing at Greeneville, the Blue Devils fell 7-0 in the district semifinals on May 8.

“We knew we were facing an almost impossible task,” head coach Justin Ciralsky said of the game against the Green Devils. “We had the goal of going out and playing our game. … We started out very grown. Greeneville got an accidental goal early in the game and that kind of deflated us. Out of all the games that you don’t want a fluke goal to happen is against a team that doesn’t need much help scoring.”

Despite the early disappoint and the end result, Ciralsky said the Blue Devils never gave up.

“They played well,” he added. “They finished the game out well. They have good character and they never quit.”

• • •

The 2018 season is one to be remembered, especially because of the rainy weather.

“This spring was crazy weather-wise and that affected, not just us, but many teams,” Ciralsky said. “We didn’t get to play as many games as we wanted. We had six games get canceled and we didn’t get to practice outside near as much as we would have like to. I think you could definitely tell because there were some things that we were lacking – more touches on the ball would have helped drastically.”

The Blue Devils will graduate four seniors – Jakob Carver, Chris Andrade, Leroy Valdez and Kevin Alvarado – from the 2018 team.

“They have been an awesome group,” Ciralsky said. “They have been consistent throughout their careers.”

Unicoi County track and field athletes win conference events

For the fourth consecutive season, the Lady Devils’ 4×800-meter relay team won the Three Rivers Conference title. The 2018 team includes, pictured from left, Megan Todd, Jillian Taylor, Kaitlyn Tilson and Valeria Ponce. (Photo contributed by Daniela Martinez)

By Keeli Parkey

They ran. They threw. They jumped. They had success.

Several Unicoi County High School track and field athletes won or placed in their respective events during the 2018 Three Rivers Conference meet held at Elizabethton High School on Monday, May 7.

“This meet is a very important day for us, not only to try to claim conference bragging rights, but also to have a final opportunity for our athletes to qualify for the Large Schools Sectionals,” head coach Megan Davis told The Erwin Record.

Among the notable results was a first-place finish by the Lady Devils’ 4×800-meter relay team. This was the fourth consecutive year that a UCHS team has won this event at the conference meet. Running in the event on Monday were Valeria Ponce, Kaitlyn Tilson, Jillian Taylor and Megan Todd.

“I am so incredibly proud of our 4×800 team,” Davis said. “They have worked many years to get to where they are. Their leadership has been seen throughout the entire team and has helped pass the reins over to Valeria, the lone freshman on the relay.”

Blue Devil Kody Lewis turned in a first-place finish in the 200-meter and a second-place finish in the 100-meter.

“Kody stood out big tonight,” Davis said. “He made a name for himself as a new runner in the conference.”

Lady Devil Halie Hawkins took first place in the pole vault.

“Halie is really vaulting well,” Davis said.

Other notable results for the UCHS program at the conference meet included: Kenny Perciful, second in shot put, fourth in discus; Roby Lemmon, sixth in shot put; Megan Todd, second in 3200-meter, third in 1600-meter; Cheyenne Wilson, sixth in 1600-meter; John Campbell, sixth in 1600-meter; Jillian Taylor, sixth in 400-meter; Alexis Harvey and Alex Carter, tied for second place in pole vault; Rachel Altemose, fourth in pole vault; Jadyn Peterson, sixth in pole vault; Sabrina Todd third in 3200-meter; and Kayla Hicks, sixth in 200-meter.

“I couldn’t be more proud of all the performances tonight,” Davis said on Monday. “For many it was their last meet of the season and for some of our seniors this was their last meet for their high school career and they gave it their all. Others knew they still had sectionals on Friday (May 11), yet their performances still left everything out there. They all had one goal in mind and that showed in the results tonight.”

• • •

The Blue Devils and Lady Devils wrapped up the regular season last week with a meet at Science Hill on May 1 and an invitational meet at Dobyns-Bennett on May 4.

Results on May 1 included: Perciful, first place in discus and shot; Lemmon, second place in discus and shot; Lewis, first in 100-meter and 200-meter; Campbell, second place in steeplechase; Natalia Mendoza, second in discus; M. Todd, third in 1600-meter; and Taylor, fourth in 400-meter.

On Friday, May 4, Lewis and Hawkins represented UCHS at the Ballad Health Tri-Cities Relays (formerly the Times News/Tri-Cities Relays) in Kingsport.

“A few UCHS athletes were invited to compete in this prestigious ‘area best’ meet at Dobyns-Bennett,” Davis said. “In order to compete in this meet, athletes must be one of the top 9 competitors in the Tri-Cities area in their event. This not only allows athletes another opportunity to qualify for sectionals, but it’s also a night of bragging rights.”

Hawkins took second place in the pole vault at the event while jumping 10 feet – a personal best and a new school record.

“This was a big night for her to get to feel a whole new level of vaulting,” Davis said. “We are excited to see where this carries her for sectionals.”

Lewis earned fifth place in the 100-meter and ran a new personal best of 11.42.

“Kody has been running very well for us and we are still seeing significant drops in his time as we are just now hitting his optimal training level,” Davis said. “The competition Kody and Halie saw today is the competition they will see on May 12. This night was great for their own successes and good for us coaches to see what we need to prepare for next week.”

The girls 4x800m relay (Ponce, Tilson, Taylor and M. Todd) was invited to this meet, but didn’t compete due to injuries. Lewis was also invited for the 200-meter, but did not compete in this event due to his training schedule.

• • •

Blue Devils and Lady Devils who have qualified will compete in the sectional meet on Saturday, May 12, at Science Hill.

“This year has been a year of change for UCHS track and field,” Davis said. “The changes to the TSSAA track and field system placed Unicoi County in the larger school classification. Despite these changes, our goal at UCHS track and field has not changed – Blue Devil representation at the state meet in Murfreesboro. Part of that new journey for our athletes has been qualifying for the sectional track meet.

The following athletes will compete at sectionals on May 12: Hawkins in pole vault; Harvey in pole vault; Altemose in pole vault; Mendoza in discus; Shane Armstrong in shot put; Perciful in shot put; Lewis in the 100-meter and 200-meter; and M. Todd in the 1600-meter and 3200-meter.

“This is an incredible accomplishment for each of these athletes and a testament to their hard work this season,” Davis said. “We could not be more proud of the way all of our athletes perform each and every day and are excited to see what these qualifiers do as they attempt to qualify for the state meet.”

Lady Devil softball team bests Sullivan East in postseason opener

After fielding a ground ball, Halie Padgett throws to first base for an out. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County High School softball team (34-7, 10-2) earned an easy victory in its first game of the District 1-AA tournament.

Playing at Elizabethton, the second-seeded Lady Devils got three RBIs from both Sydney Miller and Chloe Powers en route to their 10-0 victory over Sullivan East on Monday, May 7.

Grady Lingerfelt’s team took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning thanks to an RBI double by Miller and a 2-run home run by Halie Padgett.

The Lady Devils and Lady Patriots kept one another off the scoreboard until the bottom of the sixth inning, when UCHS scored seven runs. Powers got all three of her RBIs on one swing – a triple that scored Kaylia Street, Leah Edney and Ashtan Vance. Miller later singled and scored Powers and Halie Hawkins for an 8-0 lead. UCHS added two more runs to seal the mercy-rule victory.

Padgett gave up only 4 hits in the shutout. Grace Ann Clark was 2-2 at the plate. Allee Griffith was 2-3. The Lady Devils had 11 hits in the game.

The victory over East sent UCHS to the tournament’s winner’s bracket final where they faced Elizabethon – the top seed in the tournament – on Tuesday, May 8, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.

With a win on Tuesday, the Lady Devils will play for the tournament championship on Thursday, May 10, at Elizabethton. The Lady Cyclones advanced in the winner’s bracket thanks to a 15-0 victory over Happy Valley on Monday.

With a loss on Tuesday, they will play on Wednesday at 7 p.m. against either East, Happy Valley or Johnson County.

If they have to play on Wednesday, the Lady Devils will have to win that game to keep their season alive. If they win on Wednesday, the Lady Devils would face Elizabethton on Thursday and would have to defeat the Lady Cyclones twice to win the district. Advancing to Thursday will also give UCHS a berth in the regional tournament.

• • •

The Lady Devils wrapped up the regular season and secured second place in the Three Rivers Conference with three victories last week.

First, UCHS defeated Johnson County 10-0 in both back-to-back games during a double-header played in Erwin on May 1. The team had 20 hits in the two games, including home runs by Tanya Chavez, Hawkins and Miller. Padgett earned the victory in the circle in the first game, while Griffith earned the win in the second.

The Lady Devils then went on the road on May 2 and defeated Sullivan East, 9-4. Padgett had 9 strikeouts and 3 hits in the win. Powers and Rylee Stiltner each contributed 2 RBIs.

Blue Devil baseball team shut out in district tournament game

Owen Nicholson lays down a bunt. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

The Blue Devils had their backs against the wall on Tuesday, May 8, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.

Following an 11-0 loss to Elizabethton in the District 1-AA tournament on Monday, May 7, the Unicoi County High School baseball team (19-13, 10-2) had to defeat Sullivan East on Tuesday to keep their postseason hopes alive.

“We had several opportunities in the first and second innings to put runs on the board,” head coach Chad Gillis said about Monday’s loss. “We didn’t capitalize on Elizabethton’s errors throughout the first few innings.”

A loss on Tuesday ended the season for the Blue Devils. A win over East set up a rematch with Elizabethton later Tuesday evening and gave UCHS a berth in the regional tournament. A loss to Elizabethton Tuesday gave the Cyclones the district title and put the Blue Devils in second place.

If the Blue Devils defeated East, then defeated Elizabethton on Tuesday, they will play Elizabethton for the district title on Wednesday, May 9, at 6 p.m. at Cardinal Park.

• • •

The Blue Devils opened the district tournament with a 5-0 victory over Sullivan Central on Saturday, May 5, at Cardinal Park.

Pitcher Caleb Wilson (6-3) earned the victory for UCHS.

“Caleb came out and had a great day on the mound,” Gillis said. “He pitched himself out of some pretty tough situations. We also played well defensively behind him. Offensively, we started out slow, but had some key hits late in the game to push some runs across.”

Clay Simpson, Keaton Casey and Brett Strother were all 2-3 at the plate.

• • •

UCHS ended the regular season on May 1 with a 12-5 loss to Dobyns-Bennett in Erwin.

Blue Devil baseball team wins conference title

Shortstop Owen Nicholson throws to first base. (File photo)

By Keeli Parkey

Another season – another Three Rivers Conference crown.

With a 5-1 victory at Elizabethton on Wednesday, April 25, the Unicoi County High School baseball team (18-11, 10-2) claimed its second consecutive conference championship. It was a game where the Blue Devils could win the crown outright with a victory, or share the title because of a loss.

“We came out and played well today,” head coach Chad Gillis said. “They showed some maturity and bounced back after a tough loss at home.”

UCHS had a chance to win the conference outright earlier last week, but lost to Elizabethton on April 23. Luckily for the Blue Devils, Happy Valley defeated Sullivan East which kept their hopes of winning a league title outright alive.

“I am excited for my guys to win a conference championship,” Gillis said.

Senior pitcher Clay Simpson (4-0) stayed perfect on the season with a solid performance against the Cyclones. Simpson gave up two hits and struck out 12 batters. He also helped his cause by going 2-4 at the plate.

“Clay dominated on the mound and we had kids come up and do work in big offensive situations,” Gillis said.

Senior Caleb Wilson was 3-4 in the game, including one double and one triple, and had 2 RBIs. Junior Brett Strother was 2-4.

The Blue Devils will be the top seed going into this weekend’s District 1-AA tournament thanks to the conference championship. UCHS is expected to play its first postseason game at Cardinal Park at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 5. Their opponent has not yet been determined. The tournament will continue into next week.

• • •

After getting the job done in conference play, the Blue Devils ended the week with two non-conference contests.

UCHS lost at Daniel Boone, 10-4, on Friday, April 27.

“We came out and made multiple defensive errors and didn’t hit the ball like we can,” Gillis said. “They are a really solid hitting team and when you give them freebies, they will make you pay.”

Junior pitcher Keaton Casey (3-2) took the loss. Wilson was 3-4 at the plate with two doubles.

The Blue Devils bounced back the following day with a 7-6 victory over David Crockett in Erwin.

“This was another tough win for us,” Gillis said. “David Crockett is a much-improved team and they tied the game up with a 3-run home run the top of the seventh. We fought back and got guys on base. Caleb Crain executed a suicide squeeze play to tie the game and Hunter Higgins had the game-winning hit.”

Sophomore pitcher Peyton Whitson earned the win on the mound. Wilson had another 3-hit game, including two doubles. Troy Podvin and Brett Strother were both 3-4. Owen Nicholson was 2-5, including a home run and 2 RBIs.

• • •

The Blue Devils have wrapped up the regular season. They lost, 10-0, at Science Hill on Monday, April 30, and hosted Dobyns-Bennett on Tuesday, May 1, after the press deadline for this issue.

Trevor Hensley signs with Milligan College

Family, friends and coaches joined Trevor Hensley, seated center, as he signed with Milligan College on Friday, April 27. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Damaris Higgins)

By Keeli Parkey

His time in a blue uniform may have come to an end, but Trevor Hensley’s basketball career will continue.

Hensley, the all-time leading scorer in Unicoi County High School history, officially signed with the Milligan College Buffalo basketball program during a ceremony on Friday, April 27, at the school.

“I didn’t look at too many schools before Milligan,” Hensley told The Erwin Record. “Milligan stood out to me from the beginning. My visit was an amazing experience; it really just felt like home from the beginning of the whole process.”

Hensley led the Blue Devils to a 22-13 record during the 2017-18 season. The team won the Three Rivers Conference regular season title, District 1-AA tournament and came in second in the Region 1-AA tournament before falling to Knox Fulton in the sectional round. Hensley averaged 23.4 points, 5 rebounds, almost 4 assists and 3 steals per game during his senior season.

Hensley became the Blue Devils’ all-time leading scorer in December, surpassing Logan Lyle’s record of 1,889 points. During the sectional game at Knox Fulton in March, he passed Lady Devil Amy Engle to become the school’s all-time leading scorer. Engle, a 1991 graduate, totalled 2,366 points during her career; Hensley finished his career with 2,378 points. He was the district tournament MVP and a member of the all-region tournament.

Following the season, Hensley was chosen for the AA all-state team, named the Three Rivers Conference player of the year and Northeast Tennessee player of the year. He also won the MVP award and three-point competition at the FCA Northeast Tennessee/Southwest Virginia all-star game played at Emory & Henry College in April.

“Trevor’s hard work has led him to where he is,” Blue Devil head coach Michael Smith said. “From his freshman season through his senior year he was dedicated to the game and to our program. Milligan is getting a great player and someone who can help them win championships.”

Hensley said he is excited to join Milligan’s program.

“Being a part of the team has been a great experience so far – everything from playing pick up with the guys to getting to know the coaches,” he added. “Just like I did here, I’m going to come in and give this school my all, working to fill any role where I am needed. … I know that I will be one of the hardest workers out there to make this transition easier. I’m going to come in, play my game and do whatever coach Robinson needs me to do to continue the winning culture.”

Hensley said the support of his family has been instrumental to his success on the court.

“I would like to thank my close family most of all,” he added. “Specifically my dad and grandfather. My dad and I have put more hours than anyone knows in the gym together. He’s the one that introduced me to this game, the one who taught me how to shoot, the one who taught me to be a leader on the floor. I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done with me and the time he’s invested in me. I also have a very special grandfather. Not many people have someone who would take them to the gym and rebound for them for as long as they wanted, whenever they wanted. I can honestly say I’ve never been told ‘no’ from my papaw when it comes to going to the gym. My family has pushed me to my limits and believed in me when no one else did. I’ll never be able to thank them enough for that.”

Hensley will play in another all-star game – the Rocky Top Border War – on Friday, May 4, at 8 p.m. at Knoxville Catholic High School.

He is the son of Paul and Wendy Hensley.

Lady Devil softball team wins silver bracket at Tiny Day

Allee Griffith fires a pitch across home plate during a recent softball game. (File photo)

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County High School softball team (30-7, 7-2) earned some hardware in the Tiny Day Tournament played in Greeneville from Thursday, April 26, through Sunday, April 29.

Grady Lingerfelt’s Lady Devils started the annual event in a pool with Morristown West, Cherokee, Chuckey-Doak and West Greene.

On Thursday, they defeated Chuckey-Doak, 7-0, to open the tournament. UCHS scored 1 run in the first and 6 in the second on its way to the win. Halie Padgett earned the win in the circle with 8 strikeouts. She was also 1-2 at the plate with 2 RBIs. Rylee Stiltner and Chloe Powers were both 1-2 with 1 RBI. Grace Ann Clark hit a solo home run.

Also on Thursday, UCHS fell to Morristown West, 7-3.

“We got beat by Morristown West in a mud fest,” Lingerfelt said. “It was raining when we started and it was raining when we were done.”

A 3-run third inning broke the game open for West.

Allee Griffith threw 5 strikeouts in the loss. Tanya Chavez hit a solo home run. Sydney Miller was 1-3 with an RBI. Griffith was 1-3. Powers was 1-2. Padgett had the team’s other RBI.

On Friday evening, the Lady Devils needed extra innings to defeat Cherokee, 11-9.

“We beat a really good Cherokee team in extra innings,” Lingerfelt said. “It was probably the best game we have played, by far.”

Miller hit 2 home runs and had 4 RBIs in the win. Stiltner was 3-4 with 3 RBIs. Griffith was 3-5. Halie Hawkins was 2-3, including a home run, and had 2 RBIs. Ashtan Vance was 2-2 with an RBI.

In their final pool play game of the tournament, the Lady Devils defeated West Greene, 7-0, on Friday night. UCHS held a 2-0 lead going into the bottom of the fourth inning, then scored 5 more runs to seal the win.

Miller hit a solo home run in the game. Chavez was 2-2 with 2 RBIs. Griffith and Powers each contributed an RBI. Griffith threw 7 strikeouts.

•••

With pool play at an end, two undefeated teams automatically qualified for the tournament’s gold bracket. Other teams, including UCHS, had the same record, so runs allowed was used to determine who would join the gold bracket. Because Cherokee gave up fewer runs than the Lady Devils, they were placed in the gold bracket while UCHS was placed in the silver.

Tournament play was held on Sunday where the Lady Devils defeated North Greene, 7-1, in the semifinal round. Four runs in the fourth inning helped lift UCHS past North Greene and into the championship.

Chavez was 2-2 with 3 RBIs. Miller and Powers were both 1-2 with an RBI each. Padgett had 9 strikeouts.

A 5-run third inning led to a 6-1 victory for UCHS over Greeneville in the silver bracket’s championship game.

Griffith threw 7 strikeouts and had 2 RBIs in the win. Miller, Chavez, Padgett and Vance each contributed an RBI.

“We played pretty well on Sunday,” Lingerfelt said. “I think we are getting better and are ready to play in the postseason.”

•••

The Lady Devils hosted Johnson County in a doubleheader on Tuesday, May 1, in conference competition after the press deadline for this issue. The ladies are scheduled to travel to Sullivan East for a conference game on Wednesday, May 2, at 5 p.m.

If the ladies win both games against Johnson County, they will finish in second place in the Three Rivers Conference and will be the second seed in the upcoming District 1-AA tournament being held at Elizabethton. If UCHS is the second seed, they will open the tournament on Monday, May 7, at 8 p.m.

If the Lady Devils are the third seed, they will play on Friday, May 4, at 6:30 p.m.

Conference meet rescheduled for May 7

By Keeli Parkey

As it has done much of the spring sports season, weather led to the rescheduling of a recent event.

The Unicoi County High School track and field team was set to compete in the Three Rivers Conference meet at Elizabethton on Thursday, April 26, but heavy rain forced coordinators to cancel it. According to UCHS head coach Megan Davis, the meet has been rescheduled for Monday, May 7, beginning at 4 p.m. at Elizabethton.

The entire Blue Devil and Lady Devil teams had their last meet before the conference when they traveled to Science Hill on Tuesday, May 1, after the press deadline for this issue.

Only those athletes who qualify will be invited to compete in the Ballad Tri-Cities Sports Relays – at Dobyns-Bennett on Friday, May 4. Davis expects to have a few UCHS representatives at that competition.

The important sectional meet will be held at Science Hill on May 12, according to Davis. UCHS athletes will qualify for this competition based on their results each season. The top four competitors from each event will advance to the state meet, which will be held in Murfreesboro from May 23-25.

Regular season approaches end for high school tennis teams

By Keeli Parkey

The end of the 2018 regular season is quickly approaching for the Unicoi County High School tennis teams.

The UCHS teams will wrap up the regular season with four matches during the week of April 30 when they will face Sullivan North, Johnson County, Elizabethton and Sullivan South.

The Blue Devils and Lady Devils recently went on the road and faced Sullivan East, Science Hill, Dobyns-Bennett and Tennessee High.

Both teams were competitive against Sullivan East, but lost in the team competition. The Blue Devils lost 6-3 with Ben Hensley (8-3) and Aaron Manzanares (8-6) winning their singles matches and the doubles team of Chase Erwin/Hensley winning their doubles match (9-7).

“The boys fell short against Sullivan East, but had a few close matches,” head coach Karla Keesecker said. “Matthew Sutphin played a great match losing just shy at 9-7.

The Lady Devils lost to East, 7-2. Katherine Altemose (8-4) won her singles match and then teamed up with Taylor Thomas to win a doubles match (8-0).

“I was proud of the way the girls competed even though they lost the overall match,” Keesecker said.

The matches against Science Hill, Dobyns-Bennett and Tennessee High resulted in losses for both UCHS teams.

“Even though they lost, they played very well and did their absolute best,” Keesecker said. “I was extremely proud of the way they handled such tough teams. They played each point to the best of their ability and handled the challenge with grace.”

The Blue Devils were especially competitive at Dobyns-Bennett, according to Keesecker. Noah Starnes lost a close match there (8-5), Chase Erwin lost (8-4) and Matthew Sutphin lost (8-6). 

As the season winds down, Keesecker said she is pleased with how her players have performed this season.

“I really can’t say enough how proud I am of the team so far this year,” she added. “They have been faced with some tough challenges this year – no home matches, plus the change in conference. But, they have given each and every match their absolute best. They have had great attitudes this year and competed well. 

The Blue Devils and Lady Devils will compete in the district tournament on May 7-8 at Science Hill.

Blue Devil soccer team begins conference play with wins, loss

Martin Porras takes possession of the ball during a recent game. (Erwin Record File Photo)

By Keeli Parkey

After weeks of non-conference competition, the Unicoi County High School boys soccer team (5-2-1, 2-1) recently began league play with games against Volunteer, Sullivan Central and Greeneville.

The Blue Devils went on the road on April 10 and defeated the Volunteer Falcons, 5-0.

“It was a great conference win,” UCHS head coach Justin Ciralsky said. “The whole team played well. They overcame some rough field conditions to capitalize on the win. The guys were excited to get a big conference win, especially for the first game.”

Scoring for the Blue Devils at Volunteer were Martin Porras, Leroy Valdez, Juan Ponce and Armando Saldana.

The Blue Devils earned a 4-1 home victory over Sullivan Central on April 17.

“Juan Ponce scored three goals and Daniel Meza played great in the midfield,” Ciralsky said.

Ciralsky’s team suffered its first conference loss of the season at Greeneville on April 19; it was the team’s first loss since March 15. The Blue Devils fell 7-0.

“Miguel Vasquez played great in the goal,” Ciralsky said. “Although we got scored on, he made some great saves throughout the night. This was a great learning experience for him. Jacob Carver also played great defense.”

The head coach also said his team is still working to improve.

“We have the right ideas, but we are still struggling to execute them and take full advantage of them,” he explained. “Our passes are just a little off, and our first touch is still off and, especially in the Greeneville game, they exploited those mistakes and it really cost us. Our goal in every game is to continue moving forward. We want to build off past success and learn from previous mistakes. So far the boys are doing well with that each game.”

• • •

The Blue Devils were scheduled to host Sullivan South in league play on Tuesday, April 24, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue. They will host Anderson County in Erwin on Thursday, April 26, at 6 p.m. and go on the road to face Cocke County on Friday, April 27, at 6 p.m. in non-conference play.

The Blue Devils will play their final game of the season against conference foe Elizabethton on the road on Tuesday, May 1, at 6 p.m.

Blue Devil baseball team hanging onto top spot in conference

Caleb Wilson is hit by a pitch during the Blue Devils’ win over Sullivan Central in Erwin. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

A little bit of luck kept the Unicoi County High School baseball team (16-9, 9-2) as the leader of the Three Rivers Conference.

The Blue Devils lost a critical game to Elizabethton, 9-2, on Monday, April 23. The win gave the Cyclones a 9-3 league record, while the loss dropped the Blue Devils to 9-2. Luckily for Erwin’s team, Sullivan East, which was 8-2 in league play going into Monday, lost to Happy Valley and now has three conference losses.

“This was a big game for us and we just dropped the ball,” Blue Devil head coach Chad Gillis said of Monday’s loss to Elizabethton. “We only had 5 hits and 2 runs, with 3 errors defensively.  We just haven’t clicked offensively all year and now is the time we need this.”

Pitcher Caleb Wilson (5-2) took the loss for UCHS. Owen Nicholson went 2-3 at the plate.

UCHS traveled to Elizabethton to face the Cyclones again on Tuesday, April 24, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue. With a win, the Blue Devils clinched the Three Rivers Conference regular season title and will go into the upcoming District 1-AA tournament as the top seed.

• • •

The Blue Devils defeated Sullivan Central twice last week in conference play.

On April 17, UCHS went on the road to win 15-1.

“Tonight was a good conference win for us,” Gillis said. “We had a good couple days off and showed back up on Tuesday ready to play. Caleb Wilson gave another dominant performance on the mound. Caleb has done a tremendous job this season, he always gives us a chance to win ball games.”

The Blue Devil offense showed up with a bang during the game.

“We came out and hit the ball well tonight,” Gillis said. “We managed 15 runs on 17 hits. This was good to see, having started slow in some games of similar circumstance. I feel like we may be hitting our stride and beginning to click; if so, there is not a much better time to do so.”

Wilson earned his fifth win of the season, allowing only 1 run on 2 hits and throwing 12 strikeouts.

Keaton Casey was 3-4 with 4 RBIs. Nicholson was 2-3 at the plate with 2 RBIs. Hunter Higgins was 2-4 with 2 RBIs. Troy Podvin was 3-4.

The following day, the Blue Devils got off to a slow start in Erwin, but managed to defeat the Cougars again.

“We came out a little flat tonight, but found a way to win the game,” Gillis said. “Clay (Simpson) battled all night and dominated all but three of Sullivan Central’s hitters. They had three guys with some pop and we just couldn’t stop those guys tonight. … We had some mental lapses on defense and on the bases tonight, but we pulled it out.  We must put this one behind us, be happy we won, and learn from our mistakes.”

Simpson tied the game with a home run and the game went into extra innings. Podvin came on in relief in the top of the eighth and helped keep Central off the scoreboard. In the bottom of the eighth, UCHS loaded the bases and Podvin provided the game-winning hit. The Blue Devils won the game, 6-5.

Simpson had 13 strikeouts and gave up 5 runs on 8 hits. Podvin earned the win.

Nicholson was 3-5. Podvin was 2-5. Simpson was 2-4 with 2 home runs.

• • •

Despite holding an 8-0 lead in the fifth inning, the Blue Devils couldn’t hang on to get a non-conference win against West Greene on Thursday, April 19.

“West Greene exploded to 10 runs in the fifth and sixth innings,” Gillis said.

Casey (3-1) took the loss on the mound. Wilson was 2-3 at the plate. Brett Strother hit a home run.

UCHS bounced back from the loss two days later to defeat non-conference foe Cherokee, 13-5, in Erwin. Ramon Avila earned the win on the mound.

“We played well and had plenty of offense,” Gillis said. “Ramon has pitched well all year and finally gets his first win.

Nicholson and Casey were both 3-3. Podvin was 2-4 with a home run.

• • •

The Blue Devils will conclude the regular season in the coming days. They will travel to Daniel Boone on Friday, April 27, for a game at 6 p.m. They will host David Crockett at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 28, and will travel to Science Hill on Monday, April 30, at 6 p.m. The final regular season game will be played in Erwin on Tuesday, May 1, at 5:30 p.m. against Dobyns-Bennett.

Track and field athletes prepare for conference meet

By Keeli Parkey

Representing the Unicoi County High School Lady Devil track team in the 1600-meter race last week were, pictured from left, Cheyenne Wilson, Halie Dehoff and Sabrina Todd. (Photo contributed by Marayanna White)

The Unicoi County High School track and field teams capped off several busy weeks of competition with a meet at Science Hill on Tuesday, April 17.

“Our team has had an easier week this past week by only competing in one meet,” head coach Megan Davis told The Erwin Record. “We are getting to the point in our season where fresh legs are needed. This meet was a great opportunity to see performances improve.”

According to Davis, results for UCHS athletes last week included: John Campbell, first in both the 800- and 1600-meter and second place in the steeplechase; Kody Lewis, second in the 200-meter, third in the 100-meter and third in the high jump; Jacob Schreck, fourth in the high jump; Roby Lemmon, fourth in the discus and shot put; Halie Hawkins, third place in the pole vault; Jillian Taylor, fourth place in the 400-meter; Megan Todd, third place in the 800-meter; Alexis Harvey, fourth place in the 800-meter; Cheyenne Wilson, third in the 1600-meter; Sabrina Todd, fourth in the 1600-meter.

Last week’s meet was the final competition for the Blue Devils and Lady Devils before they begin postseason action.

“As we prepare for our conference meet on April 26 and sectionals on May 12, we are starting to focus our athletes on running fewer events and best times,” Davis said. “As one of the smallest schools in the newly designed larger school sectional, we are having to change the way our kids train in hopes of qualifying as many athletes as possible.”

All the work this season has been done with one objective in mind, according to the head coach.

“Having UCHS representation at the state meet is still our goal and our team is working extremely hard to see that goal met,” Davis said.

The Three Rivers Conference meet will begin at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 26, and will be held at Elizabethton. The UCHS athletes will also compete at Science Hill on Tuesday, May 1.

Lady Devils fall into second place

Greta Raby gets a force out at second base during the Lady Devil softball team’s loss to Elizabethton. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

A needed Three Rivers Conference victory slipped away from the Unicoi County High School softball team (25-6, 7-2) last week.

Having already lost to Elizabethton this season, Grady Lingerfelt’s Lady Devils had a chance to even the league standings when the Lady Cyclones came to Erwin on Wednesday, April 18 – and for five innings it seemed the Lady Devils would do just that.

After Elizabethton took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, UCHS responded in the home half of the inning. Halie Padgett hit a single that scored Halie Hawkins. Padgett and Sydney Miller then scored on a single for Grace Ann Clark as the Lady Devils took a 3-2 lead. Elizabethton tied the game at 3 in the second inning.

The Lady Devils reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning when Rylee Stiltner’s single scored Ashtan Vance and Chloe Powers. Once again, the Lady Cyclones responded, tying the game at 5 in the top of the fifth inning.

UCHS wasn’t ready to relinquish control of the game just yet. In the bottom of the fifth, Vance hit a 2-run home run for a 7-5 lead for Erwin’s ladies.

A 4-run sixth inning gave the Lady Cyclones control of the game as the Lady Devils couldn’t put another runner across the plate the rest of the game. Three runs in the seventh gave Elizabethton the 12-7 victory.

Vance was 3-4 with a home run in the loss. Clark was 2-4 with 2 RBIs. Padgett was 2-4 with 1 RBI. Stiltner was 1-3 with 2 RBIs. The Lady Devils out hit Elizabethton 13-12, but 5 errors by the Lady Devils were costly.

The win gave Elizabethton control of the conference race. The Lady Devils remained in second place as of The Erwin Record’s press deadline and will most likely go into next week’s District 1-AA tournament as the number two seed.

• • •

The Lady Devils defeated conference foe Sullivan South, 5-2, on the road on April 17.

After UCHS took a 2-0 lead during the opening at-bat, South answered with two runs of their own. The Lady Devils took the lead for good in the fourth when Chloe Powers hit an RBI single. UCHS added one run in the fifth and in the seventh and held South scoreless to hold on for the win.

Allee Griffith was 3-4 with 2 RBIs in the win. Clark was 2-4. Stiltner was 2-3. Padgett and Chloe Powers each had an RBI.

• • •

The Lady Devils were scheduled to face Sullivan East on the road in conference action on Tuesday, April 24, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue. They will play in the annual Tiny Day Tournament in Greeneville from April 26-29.

The Lady Devils will wrap up the regular season with a double-header against conference opponent Johnson County on Tuesday, May 1, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Lady Devil softball team wins annual NFS Tournament

The Unicoi County High School softball team celebrated the start of the annual NFS Tournament with a ceremonial first pitch on Friday, April 13. Throwing the first pitch was NFS representative Kierna Mason. The Lady Devils went on to win the tournament with a victory over Science Hill in the championship game. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

Eight games resulted in eight victories for the Unicoi County High School softball team (24-5, 6-1) last week, including another tournament championship.

The Lady Devils survived a furious comeback by Science Hill in the championship contest to win the 20th annual NFS Tournament on Saturday, April 14, at Lady Devil Diamond.

After the Lady Hilltoppers took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, UCHS scored 4 runs in the second, 2 in the third, 1 in the fourth and 3 in the fifth to hold a commanding 10-1 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth.

It then appeared that the Lady Devils would force Science Hill to go quietly as the UCHS defense forced a ground out and a fly out. Mackenzie Powell then reached base on a two-out single and was brought home on a single by Makenzie Smith for a 10-2 score. Smith next scored on an error for a 10-3 score. With two on base, Shayna Price then hit a home run for a 10-6 score before the inning came to an end.

The Lady Devils did not get a runner on base in the top of the sixth and needed three outs to win the game and the tournament crown before the game would be called for time.

Following a flyout, Kasey Bennett homered for the Hilltoppers for a 10-7 score. Following another flyout, Mia Edwardson and Powell each hit two-out solo home runs, which cut the UCHS lead to one run, 10-9.

The Lady Devils then got the out they needed to win – a grounder fielded by Greta Raby who threw to Halie Padgett at first base to end the game. Allee Griffith got the win for UCHS in the circle.

Halie Hawkins was 3-4 at the plate with 3 RBIs. Sydney Miller also had 3 RBIs in the game. Chloe Powers was 2-2 with an RBI. Griffith, Grace Ann Clark (1 RBI) and Ashtan Vance were each 2-4. Rylee Stiltner and Samantha Chavez each had an RBI.

Pool play in the NFS Tournament began on Friday, April 13. On that day UCHS defeated Johnson County, 8-2, and Sullivan South, 17-0. The Lady Devils wrapped up pool play on Saturday morning with a 13-3 victory over Tennessee High.

The tournament portion of the competition began Saturday afternoon where UCHS defeated Sullivan Central, 10-0, in the quarterfinals and defeated Unaka, 3-2, in the semifinals.

• • •

UCHS earned two conference wins earlier last week.

On Wednesday, April 11, the Lady Devils won 15-3 at Sullivan Central, thanks in part to a 4-RBI game by Miller, who was 2-4 in the game.

Padgett and Griffith each contributed 3 RBIs. Clark had 2.

The following day, UCHS defeated Happy Valley, 17-2, at Lady Devil Diamond. Miller continued her hot streak at the plate, going 4-4 with 5 RBIs in the win.

Tanya Chavez had 3 RBIs and Griffith had 2.

• • •

The Lady Devils will have an opportunity to avenge a previous conference loss to Elizabethton when the Lady Cyclones come to Erwin on Wednesday, April 18, at 6 p.m.

They are scheduled to host Johnson County at 6 p.m. on Monday, April 23, and travel to Sullivan East on Tuesday, April 24, at 6 p.m. for conference games.

UCHS Blue Devil baseball team travels for invitational

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County High School baseball team (13-7, 7-1) took its show on the road last week.

Head coach Chad Gillis’ Blue Devils played four games in three days against some of the top baseball programs in East Tennessee as part of the Smoky Mountain Invitational.

First, UCHS dropped a close game at Jefferson County on Thursday, April 12.

“We got down 3-0 in the first inning,” Gillis said. “We never responded until the fourth inning with Clay Simpson’s solo home run.”

Timely hitting and good defense put the Blue Devils back in the game as they scored four runs in the sixth inning to take a 5-4 lead.

“An error cost us the tying run and we couldn’t get a run across in the top of the seventh,” Gillis said.

In the bottom of the seventh, Jefferson County won the game, 6-5, on a walk-off home run.

“It was disheartening to fight so hard and lose on a walk-off, but I am extremely proud of how we never gave up and continued to play even when we were down,” Gillis said. “We are maturing as a team and have good things ahead of us if we can learn from our mistakes. Jefferson County has a good program and we fought them until the end.”

Pitcher Keaton Casey lost his first game of the season against Jefferson County. The junior also went 1-2 at the plate on Thursday. Senior Hunter Higgins was 2-4.

• • •

The following day, a poor performance led to a 6-0 loss at Pigeon Forge – a possible opponent for the Blue Devils in the postseason.

“We just didn’t play well against Pigeon Forge,” Gillis said. “Defensively, we made the plays we needed to, but Pigeon Forge basically bunted on us at will. They had well-placed bunts all night and would follow that with a soft base hit.”

Senior pitcher Troy Podvin took the loss.

“Troy gave up six runs on six hits, but we couldn’t manage to get a run across the plate to support him. We hit the ball most of the night, just right at people. We did face their number two guy on the mound and got to see what they have. We hope to see them again down the road.”

• • •

Senior pitcher Caleb Crain earned his first varsity win on Saturday, April 14, in a 19-8 victory at Sevier County.

“We came out swinging versus Sevier County,” Gillis said. “We ended the game with 19 runs on 19 hits. We had some great performances on the mound and hit the ball all day. It was good to see these guys respond this way after getting shut out the night before. The kids had fun today and were very aggressive at the plate.”

Senior Caleb Wilson was 3-5, including a home run, at the plate. Podvin was 3-5. Senior Owen Nicholson was 2-4. Junior Drew Keasling was 4-6.

• • •

The Blue Devils’ second win of the day on Saturday came at Seymour.

“Seymour has been a hot team in AAA lately, they are known for their offense,” Gillis said. “We scored four early, with Owen leading the game off with a solo home run. … We faced some good pitching and just executed with runners on base. Our defense and pitching kept them back offensively and never really gave them a chance to rally. Seymour backed off their aggressive style after Drew Keasling threw their best runner out on a steal and Keaton Casey threw out a good runner at the plate from right field.”

Senior pitcher Raben Reed (2-1) earned the win in an 8-4 decision.

“Raben did work on the mound,” Gillis said. “He didn’t have his best, but he gave us a chance to win and that’s all you can ask from a pitcher.”

Simpson was 3-4 at the plate with a home run. Junior Brett Strother was 3-4. Nicholson was 2-4 with a home run.

“We worked today to get two good wins against two respected AAA teams,” Gillis said of his team’s performance on Saturday.

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UCHS opened last week with back-to-back victories over Happy Valley in Three Rivers Conference action.

On Tuesday, April 10, Simpson’s (3-0) performance on the mound lifted a sluggish UCHS offense to a 2-0 victory.

“Clay had a dominating game on the mound,” Gillis said. “He gave up a single hit in the seventh inning, this hit would be Valley’s only hit of the game. Clay ended with 14 strikeouts, 2 walks and 1 hit and played a huge part in this team win. We were not hitting the ball at all. We scratched two runs on the board and that’s all he needed to get us a win.”

One of the runs came on a solo home run by Wilson.

The Blue Devils were a different team when they faced the Warriors at Happy Valley the following day.

“Caleb Wilson (4-1) pitched a one-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts and set the tone for the entire game,” Gillis said. “We came out and put five runs up in the top of the first inning. We continued to put runs up every inning after that. We decided to have a different approach at the plate today and took the ball more often. We played great defense and kept a high energy level the entire game. I am very proud of how we showed up tonight after a less than stellar offensive night last night. We must bring this energy every game – that will be the test.”

Wilson was 2-4 with a home run. Nicholas was 3-3. Sophomore Peyton Whitson, Simpson and Casey were all 2-3 in the win.

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The Blue Devils were scheduled to travel to Sullivan Central to face the Cougars in conference play on Tuesday, April 17, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline. They will play the Cougars again, this time in Erwin, on Wednesday, April 18, at 5:30 p.m. in a game that was rescheduled from Monday.

UCHS will host West Greene at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 19, and Cherokee at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 21, in non-conference play.

The Blue Devils will face conference foe Elizabethton in Erwin on Monday, April 23, at 6 p.m. and in Carter County on Tuesday, April 24, at 7 p.m.