By Curtis Carden
One stroke of the bat by Abby Hensley solidified the Unicoi County High School softball team’s position heading into the District 1-AA tournament this week.
The Lady Devil senior went 4-for-4 with a solo home run and 3 RBIs to lead her team in a 7-1 Three Rivers Conference victory over Happy Valley on Thursday, April 28, at Lady Devil Diamond.
With the victory, UCHS moved their record to 29-14 on the season and clinched the second seed in the Three Rivers Conference (TRC) with a 9-3 mark.
“That was her last regular season home game,” Lady Devil head coach Grady Lingerfelt said of Hensley. “She had a really good day at the plate for us. I thought all our girls played great against a tough Happy Valley team.”
Lady Devil junior Neelee Griffith (2-for-3) joined her senior counterpart with 3 RBIs during the evening, including an RBI triple in the sixth and knocking in a pair of runs in the third.
To compliment her first inning solo homer, Hensley knocked in two runs in the fourth, to follow up an RBI double from freshman catcher Halie Hawkins (2-for-4), to seal the deal in the TRC chase. UCHS knocked in 11 hits during the rout, with Haley Peterson, Ashley Edwards and Rylee Stiltner adding a base hit each.
Happy Valley did not back down, led by a two-hit performance from Kenzi Davis. Cali Davis knocked in the Lady Warriors’ lone run off a double in the fourth, but the UCHS defense held its ground. Sophomore Lady Devil Halie Padgett did the honors in the circle, wrapping up the contest by tossing a complete game and ringing up six batters.
“Halie threw very well,” Lingerfelt said. “She kept them off balance the entire game.”
The Lady Devils are riding a wave of momentum heading into postseason week, after pushing the Christian Academy of Knoxville (CAK) during the Gold Division of the Tiny Day tournament and wrapping up the conference schedule with dominant wins. The wins breed confidence and excitement is growing at Lady Devil Diamond.
“The girls think we can win it,” Lingerfelt said about the team’s confidence. “I think we can, too. We just have to keep hitting the ball like we have been lately and keep the confidence going into the district.”
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Hensley opened up her busy week on Tuesday, April 25, by helping UCHS to a 7-4 triumph over Sullivan South during Senior Night festivities.
The program honored Hensley, Peterson, Ashlie Padgett and Megan Gray. The seniors did their part to stall any upset bid by the Lady Rebels.
Hensley added three hits with 2 RBIs, while Gray added a 2-for-3 outing with an RBI double. A. Padgett drove in a run and added two hits, while Peterson knocked in a base hit. Griffith and Chavez added an RBI each in the win.
While doing her part at the plate, Hensley recorded the victory, giving up four runs, one earned, off 10 hits and struck out five batters.
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The Lady Devils open postseason play on Friday, May 6, at Sullivan South High School. Lingerfelt’s team will play at 8 p.m. and await the winner of the No. 3 seed/No. 6 or No. 7 contest from Thursday.