By Keeli Parkey
The Unicoi County High School softball team has its sights set on the state tournament in 2018.
Head coach Grady Lingerfelt said his Lady Devils have athleticism, experience and talent – qualities they will need to compete for a chance to play in Murfreesboro come May.
“We have a good team,” Lingerfelt said. “I don’t know how good we can be yet. There are still a few things to work out, but we have some very good players and athletes. We really hit the ball well.”
Leading the way for the Lady Devils this season will be seniors Tanya Chavez, Sydney Miller, Halie Padgett, Greta Raby and Rylee Stiltner.
Padgett will see the majority of time in the circle for the Lady Devils this season, according to Lingerfelt. “Halie is throwing really well,” the head coach said.
Chavez is a power hitter for the team and will play center field. “She is an excellent player,” Lingerfelt said.
Miller is new to the team this season and will play third base. “She is a good athlete,” the coach said.
Stiltner returns to play shortstop this season. “She is an excellent player all the way around,” Lingerfelt said.
Raby will play second base. “Greta is a solid defender,” Lingerfelt said.
Junior Allee Griffith will also pitch for the Lady Devils and play first base. “Allee is also a strong pitcher for us,” the head coach said.
Junior Halie Hawkins will catch and hit leadoff. Junior Grace Ann Clark will be the team’s designated hitter and play first base. Junior Chloe Powers will play left field. Junior Emma Kelly is an outfielder. Junior Cassie Selvage will play in the infield.
Also seeing time on the varsity squad will be sophomores Ashtan Vance, Kaylia Street and Kiley Bennett and freshman Samantha Chavez, who is Tanya’s younger sister.
The ladies will compete in a league against Elizabethton, Happy Valley, Johnson County, Sullivan Central, Sullivan East and Sullivan South.
“Elizabethton has about everybody back from last season and they have some good players,” Lingerfelt said. “We have a tough league.”
Also taking to the diamond for the UCHS junior varsity team this season will be: Caroline Podvin, Abbie Grindstaff, Kaylee Lamb, Leah Edney, Gabby Davis, Alison Hensley and Bella Bogart.
Joining Lingerfelt on the coaching staff for the Lady Devils this season are Pat Goddard, Ray Webb and Kristen Bowers.
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Due to inclement weather in recent weeks, the Lady Devils didn’t play their first games until last weekend when they traveled to Spartanburg, South Carolina, to play in the Byrnes Lady Rebel Invitational on March 16-17.
In pool play, UCHS defeated Greer, 8-0, and Mauldin, 8-2.
They faced Union County (South Carolina) in their first tournament game of the event and fell 1-0.
“They won the state in their division last year,” Lingerfelt said. “They had a South Carolina University signee pitching for them. It was a good experience. We got some hits off of her.”
The Lady Devils then fell to J.L. Mann, 5-3. They ended the tournament with an 11-0 win over Woodmont.
During the tournament, Chavez hit two home runs and Stiltner hit one. Padgett was named to the all-tournament team.
The junior varsity team also played in Spartanburg over the weekend, posting a record of 4-1.
The Lady Devils got their first conference game – and win – under their belts with a 13-1 victory over Sullivan Central on Monday, March 19.
They were scheduled to travel to Happy Valley on Tuesday, March 20, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.
UCHS will play in the East Tennessee Classic at Winged Deer Park on Friday, March 23, and Saturday, March 24.
They will return to conference play at home against Sullivan South on Monday, March 26, and at home against Sullivan East on Thursday, March 29. Both games are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.