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Ladies come from behind to win tourney

After coasting through pool play, the Unicoi County High School softball team fought its way to an East Tennessee Classic title with a 6-5 victory over Boiling Springs, S.C., on Saturday, March 28, at Winged Deer Park in Johnson City.
The Lady Devils moved their record to 9-0 on the year after a busy week and remain perfect at 4-0 in the Three Rivers Conference.
Boiling Springs is a highly-decorated AAAA softball program from Spartanburg, including a 2013 state title.
Against Boiling Springs, the Lady Blue Devils got a little taste of future postseason games, according to UCHS head coach Grady Lingerfelt.
“That was a state tournament-type game,” Lingerfelt said. “Both teams played well. We got the hits when we needed them and Tiffany (Laughren) pitched well.”
The Lady Bulldogs got the offense going early thanks to a run scampering on board and a solo shot by Brooke Palmer to go up 2-0 at the end of the first inning.
UCHS entered the scoring column in the third when Hannah Keasling scored on an RBI by Taylor Wright.
McKenna Quinn did her part in the circle for Boiling Springs, retiring seven batters and allowing just four hits; however, two of those hits came at a pivotal moment for UCHS in the top of the fifth.
After Haley Webb hit a double and Laughren walked, Wright cranked a three-run home run to give her team the 4-2 lead.
After Destinie Hayes was hit by a pitch and had Rylee Stiltner come in to run, third baseman Cierra Jackson cranked a two-run shot to give the Lady Devils a 6-2 lead.
Boiling Springs didn’t back away when they came up to bat. Jordan Smith hit a three-run homer to cut the lead within one with no outs, but the Lady Devil defense and pitching from Laughren helped sealed the contest for the Blue Nation.
Laughren, who recorded the win, and Wright were both named to the ET Classic all-tournament team following the conclusion of the event.
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UCHS qualified for the title game after earning a come-from-behind win over host team, Science Hill, in an 11-6 decision in the semifinals of the gold bracket.
The Lady Blue Devils took the early 3-0 lead over the Lady Hilltoppers, but Science Hill roared back with a six-run bottom half of the first to give UCHS their first deficit of the season.
Jackson and Wright finished with three hits each, while Wright gave her squad the go-ahead lead, 7-6, with a home run
Early Saturday morning, the Lady Blue Devils cranked five home runs, in including Neelee Griffith’s first of the year, in a 16-0 decision against Tennessee High.
On Friday, March 27, UCHS scored an 8-3 win over Gate City in the nightcap and opened the ET Classic with a 20-0 rout over Chuckey-Doak.
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The Lady Blue Devils scattered across 17 hits in their 16-0 win against Sullivan East on Thursday, March 26, in Three Rivers Conference action at Lady Devil Diamond.
Laughren recorded her first win in the circle and finished 3-3 on the night as the Lady Blue Devils hit four home runs – two by Keasling (2-3, 3 RBIs).
“It was a big win for us,” Keasling said. “We’re coming together and it was important for us to stay undefeated in the conference.”
Ashlie Padgett and Hayes also hit long balls in the game.
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Abby Hensley scored a key win in the circle, while Wright and Hayes plated three hits each in the Lady Devils’ 6-1 win over Happy Valley on Tuesday, March 24, in Carter County.
Cassie Foster, Jackson and Wright all plated runs in the contest.
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UCHS opened this week on Monday, March 30, against Science Hill in a makeup game and traveled to Sullivan South on Tuesday, March 31, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline. The Lady Blue Devils are scheduled to play Knox Bearden on Wednesday, April 1, at Walters State Community College and end the week on Thursday, April 2, on the road against Sullivan North.