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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.

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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.