By Trey Williams
Veteran Unicoi County softball coach Grady Lingerfelt came out of a brief offseason retirement for a season that could end up being brief.
The talented Lady Devils started the season last week by splitting a pair games – a 9-6 home loss to Sullivan East and a 17-3 win at Sullivan Central.
But the losses that are really piling up are scheduled games, which are being canceled due to the novel coronavirus.
The virus, which had killed more than 6,500 around the world as of Monday morning, could end up spelling doom for the spring sports season, and understandably so, according to the 70-year-old Lingerfelt, who said he has a number of the conditions that make him more susceptible.
“I just really don’t know and I’ve gotta be careful myself,” Lingerfelt said. “There are a lot of things that have been canceled already. The Eastman tournament is canceled and the East Tennessee Classic is canceled. All Sullivan County schools’ activities are canceled until the 30th. It’s gonna get bad, I think.”
Unicoi County school officials announced on Monday, March 16, that schools will be closed until April 13. During that time, no sports teams will be allowed to compete.
• • •
The Lady Devils held a 6-4 lead going into the final game of their season-opener against East on Tuesday, March 10, Erwin. However, five runs by the Lady Patriots in the top of the fifth inning doomed UCHS.
Abbie Grindstaff took the loss in the circle for the Lady Devils. She had 7 strikeouts in the game. Samantha Chavez had a 3-run home run in the loss. Her sister, Betsabe, had 2 hits. Caroline Podvin, Bella Bogart, Ashtan Vance and Leah Edney had 1 hit each.
A 10-run first inning put the Lady Devils in complete control of their game against Central on Thursday, March 12. They added 5 runs in the fourth inning and 2 in the fifth. Central’s 3 runs were all scored in the fifth.
Grindstaff had 4 strikeouts in three innings of work. Hannah Shelton had 1 strikeout in two innings. Samantha Chavez had 5 RBIs on 2 hits in the victory. Kiley Bennett had 2 RBIs and 2 hits. Kaylia Street (1 RBI), Grindstaff, Shelton (1 RBI), Bogart (1 RBI), Betsabe Chavez (2 RBIs), Vance (1 RBI) and Kaylee Lamb each had 1 hit.