By Keeli Parkey
The Unicoi County High School softball team has a solid hold on first place in the Three Rivers Conference after recent victories over Elizabethton, Happy Valley and Sullivan East.
On Monday, April 17, the Lady Devils (23-9, 7-1), wasted no time taking control of their game at Sullivan East against the Lady Patriots. In the top of the first inning, UCHS took advantage of an error by the Lady Patriots, scoring Tanya Chavez and Neelee Griffith for a 2-0 lead.
The Lady Devils added another run in the top of the third on an RBI-flyout by Chavez that scored Allee Griffith; and another in the top of the fourth on an RBI-single by Hannah Bowen that scored Hope Bailey.
East rallied to score two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning for a score of 4-2; however, the Lady Devils responded in the top half of the seventh on an RBI-single by Keelie Hall that scored Chavez.
Halie Padgett threw seven innings for UCHS with 6 strikeouts and 2 earned runs.
“We played well against Sullivan East,” head coach Grady Lingerfelt told The Erwin Record. “Halie pitched well. Overall, it was a good team effort. We hit the ball well. It’s always tough to go on the road and play.”
The Lady Devils had 11 hits in the game, including 2 each by Chavez (1 RBI), Hall (1 RBI) and Bowen (1 RBI).
The team came from one run down to get a key Three Rivers Conference win last week.
Playing on Thursday, April 13, at Elizabethton against the only conference opponent to defeat them this season, the Lady Devils scored two runs in the fourth inning to take control of the game, earn the victory and move into first place in the race for a conference championship.
“Coming back from South Carolina, the girls were ready to play against Elizabethton,” Lingerfelt said. “
Elizabethton came-from-behind to defeat UCHS, 5-3, during the first week of the season. Johnson County defeated the Lady Cyclones earlier this month, giving Elizabethton a 5-2 record in the league.
The Lady Cyclones had momentum going their way after the first inning of last week’s game. In the home half of the first, Elizabethton’s Maci West singled to center off Halie Padgett to score Macie Herrmann from third base. The Lady Cyclones held a 1-0 lead until the top of the fourth inning.
Neelee Griffith hit a one-out single, then moved to second on a stolen base. With two outs, Savannah Lafever knocked the ball over left field, giving UCHS a 2-1 lead.
“Savannah has helped us a lot lately,” Lingerfelt said. “Her homerun was huge for us – it changed the tide of the game for us.”
The Lady Devil defense held the Lady Cyclones in check following Elizabethton’s one-run first inning.
“We made some good plays,” Lingerfelt said. “They got a hit or two here or there, but Halie kept them off stride and kept them from hitting the ball as hard as they usually do.”
UCHS added two more runs in the top half of the seventh inning. Lady Devil Grace Ann Clark went to first base after being hit by a pitch. Halie Hawkins then singled, moving Hope Bailey, who was brought in to run for Clark, to second base. Bailey was picked off, then Rylee Stiltner singled to right field, moving Hawkins to second.
With Chavez at bat, Hawkins stole third base and Stiltner stole second. Chavez then hit a ground-out RBI, scoring Hawkins and moving Stiltner to third. Stiltner later scored on an error for the final UCHS run of the game.
Elizabethton didn’t threaten to score in the bottom of the seventh and the Lady Devils won the game 4-1.
Padgett got the win for UCHS, throwing 7 innings with 6 strikeouts.
Lafever was 2-for-2 with 1 home run and 2 RBIs. Stiltner, Padgett and Hawkins had 2 hits each. Chavez had the other RBI for UCHS.
The Lady Devils followed the victory over Elizabethton with a 12-0 win over Happy Valley in Carter County on Friday, April 14. Hannah Bowen and Allee Griffith threw three and two shutout innings, respectively, to lead UCHS to the win. Both Lady Devil pitchers also had 3 strikeouts in the game.
UCHS had 18 hits in the game, including 3 each by Lafever (2 RBIs), Stiltner, N. Griffith (3 RBIs) and Hawkins.
“The girls played pretty well,” Lingerfelt said. “It was a good win for us.”
A trip to South Carolina resulted in a 2-3 record in the Azalea Tournament for UCHS last week.
On Monday, April 10, the Lady Devils dropped both games, losing 3-0 to Wando, 7-3 to Nation ord and 5-4 to May River.
“We didn’t play well on Monday,” Lingerfelt said. “All the teams there were pretty good, but there wasn’t a team we couldn’t beat.”
UCHS bounced back with two solid performances – and victories – the next day. The Lady Devils defeated May River 5-3 and Northwood Academy 6-0.
“By winning the last two games that got us up to play Elizabethton,” Lingerfelt said.
The win over May River was especially significant – it was Lingerfelt’s 500th victory as head coach of the Lady Devil softball program.
“A lot of kids have contributed to that,” Lingerfelt said. “This is my 13th season as head coach. I have had a lot of talented players and very good assistant coaches It’s a nice milestone.”
The Lady Devils were scheduled to host Sullivan North on Tuesday, April 18, following The Erwin Record’s press deadline.
They are scheduled to host Happy Valley on Thursday, April 20, at 5 p.m. and travel to Johnson County on Friday, April 21, for a game at 5 p.m. The Lady Devils will also go on the road to Sullivan South on Wednesday, April 26, at 4 p.m.