Elizabethton just needed one swing of the bat to claim first place in the Three Rivers Conference.
Lady Cyclone Maci West knocked in a two-run home run in the first inning and pitcher Kellie Cunningham went the distance to defeat the Unicoi County High School softball team, 2-0, Tuesday, April 13, in Carter County.
The loss moved the Lady Devils to 22-13 on the year with a 4-3 mark inside the Three Rivers Conference.
A major contrast from their previous conference meeting – an 11-0 victory over UCHS in Erwin – was expected by Lady Cyclone head coach Kenny Hardin, who also said that the level of competition inside the league makes for a tougher schedule.
“This conference, man, it is tough,” Elizabethton head coach Kenny Hardin said. “We’re on top, right now, but anything can happen before district. We made a couple mistakes late, but we didn’t panic, like young teams would do, and I’m very proud of our girls for that.”
Fans saw a pitching duel from Cunningham and Lady Devil Halie Padgett (10-3) from start to finish, with both hurlers combining for 18 strikeouts.
“The umpire was consistent behind the plate,” Hardin said. “I didn’t hear too many complaints from either side and that makes the game go by so much faster.”
H. Padgett put herself in a position to win, retiring seven of the first eight outs of the contest via strikeout. Elizabethton struck early in the bottom half of the first, once West got ahold of pitch on a 3-2 count.
“It was a 3-2 pitch, so you’ve got to throw it,” UCHS head coach Grady Lingerfelt said. “The rest of the game, I thought we played very well, with pitching and defense. We just couldn’t hit the ball today.”
H. Padgett pitched a complete game, allowing four hits and tossing 10 strikeouts; she also had one of the team’s two hits on offense. Second baseman Abby Hensley had the Lady Devils’ other hit in the top of the first.
West led Elizabethton with two hits, while Lauren Brickey and Kennedy Richardson added a hit each.
UCHS received some much needed rest and relaxation after a packed schedule of tournaments, including the East Tennessee Classic, Azalea Classic, Eastman Invitational and last weekend’s NFS Classic, that spilled into Sunday.
“We’re just so tired from this weekend,” Lingerfelt said “It was a struggle with three games on Sunday, come back to play Monday and then travel here to play … there hasn’t been much time for rest. I think we’re going to be just fine, it’s just hard to be tired after all the tournaments the past four weeks and go on the road to play a team like (Elizabethton).”
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UCHS shellacked Sullivan North with 19 hits despite missing their seniors due to a Tennessee Promise meeting and came away with a 22-2, five-inning win on Monday, April 11, at Lady Devil Diamond.
Neelee Griffith, who moved into the team’s home run lead with five, led the way at the plate for UCHS, going 4-for-4 with a pair of homers and 5 RBIs. Cassi Foster joined her teammate in the home run category during the contest (3-for-4, 3 RBIs), ripping her second of the year. Tanya Chavez (RBI) and Riley Stiltner (3 RBIs) brought in 3-for-4 efforts, while Halie Hawkins added two hits.
Hannah Bowen, Faith Bailey, H. Padgett, and Ashley Edwards added a hit.
Bowen recorded her third win of the season, allowing two runs off seven hits with four strikeouts through four innings of work. Allee Griffith worked the fifth inning, allowing no hits and striking out four.
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UCHS opened this week with games against Sullivan South and Sullivan East after The Erwin Record’s press deadline.
The Lady Devils are scheduled to travel to Sullivan North on Thursday, April 21, before ending the week defending their title in the Tiny Day/Red Edmonds Invitational in Greeneville, beginning Friday, April 22.