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Lady Devils win NFS Classic

Haley Webb’s first home run of her career launched the Unicoi County High School Lady Blue Devil softball team into stratosphere.
Webb added to the team’s home run total this season, which stands at 47 as of The Erwin Record’s press deadline, and the ladies won the 17th annual NFS Softball Classic on Saturday, April 18, at Lady Devil Diamond.
Webb hit her solo shot during the Lady Devils’ 14-2 victory over Volunteer High School in the championship game.
“That was Haley’s first home run of her career and that tickled me to death,” Lady Blue Devil head coach Grady Lingerfelt said about the senior’s first inning blast. “We all were walking on clouds from then on.”
UCHS (29-2) had more than 15 hits in the championship game, but Webb’s leadoff shot just came naturally, according to the upperclassman.
“I hit just like any other pitch, it just hit the right spot,” Webb said after the game. “This win really helps build our confidence up for us to have a good run.”
The Lady Blue Devils and Lady Falcons have faced one another in the past, including a 4-0 win by Volunteer in last year’s NFS tournament.
“They gave us a loss last year and ended up winning the tournament,” Lingerfelt said. “Volunteer is a great team … they didn’t pitch Morgan (Marshall), but we saw (Kenzie) Dixon and she’s been very good for them this year and has shut down a lot of good teams.”
UCHS third baseman Cierra Jackson joined in the early home run festivities, cranking a two-run shot that followed Taylor Wright’s RBI single to give UCHS a 4-0 lead in the first inning.
“We prepared mentally and physically and got it done,” Jackson said. “Haley (Webb) hit that home run and it was like a shot of adrenaline from our feet to our heads … it was a great win. I think we’re on the road to state.”
The Lady Falcons plated a run in the bottom half of the inning to cut the deficit within three, but a five-run inning by the Lady Devils, that was led off by Neelee Griffith, moved UCHS back on top 9-1.
Cassie Foster, Jackson and Wright knocked in a run each and Tiffany Laughren (3-4, 4 RBIs) plated two runs in the frame and followed it up in the third inning with a two-run shot to keep things rolling at 11-1.
Destinie Hayes and Jackson accounted for the final three runs of the game to ultimately pull away with the win.
UCHS was finally able to face Elizabethton in the NFS semifinals. The Three Rivers Conference games between the two teams have been postponed due to rain.
In Saturday’s semifinal contest between the rivals, the Lady Devils pulled away from an early 1-1 tie to win 7-1.
Hayes struck first for UCHS in the bottom of the first, but Elizabethton’s Maci West wouldn’t be outdone with a solo home run.
Abby Hensley and Laughren injected life with a two RBI double and triple, respectively, while Ashlie Padgett scored an unearned run to give the Lady Devils a 6-1 advantage.
Wright put the exclamation point in the contest, rocketing her team-high 13th home run late in the contest for the final score.
Lingerfelt’s ladies met another Three Rivers Conference foe, Johnson County, in the opening round of the NFS tournament. UCHS used 17 hits and a one-hitter shut out from Wright in a 15-0 rout over the Lady Longhorns.
Hayes, Hensley, Griffith and Wright all went yard in the game. Hensley went 4-4 at the plate with four RBIs. Hayes went a perfect 3-3, while Webb added a 2-3 effort with a walk.
Outfielder Hannah Keasling also provided a highlight-worthy play in the top of the fourth, robbing Lady Longhorn Cindi Edington from a home run with an over-the-fence grab down the left field line.
The Lady Devils won all three of their games in the tournament’s pool play round. UCHS recorded victories over Science Hill (9-6), Cherokee (5-1) and University High (11-2).
There was no shortage of standout performances during pool play with the entire rotation of the Lady Blue Devils seeing time around the diamond, across the base paths or in the batter’s box in the hometown tournament.
“To win three big tournaments is good,” Lingerfelt said, “and this is always a good tournament for us. There’s always a good crowd that comes out, good food and a lot of help. It was a good week for us.”
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Happy Valley looked to make some noise in the Three Rivers Conference race on Thursday, April 16, but Foster was able to break open a 2-1 lead and carry it to an 11-1 five-inning win at Lady Devil Diamond.
Foster knocked in a line-drive shot across center field to give her team a 5-1 cushion in the third inning.
“We had to keep hitting,” Foster said. “If we stopped hitting, we knew we’d get down. We just have to keep fighting together as a team and stay strong heading into the district tournament.”
Laughren also tossed a solid game in the circle, allowing no earned runs with five hits and three strikeouts.
The Lady Blue Devils opened up the week with a 4-1 nail-biting win over the Lady Longhorns on Tuesday, April 14, in Erwin.
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UCHS opened the week with games against Chuckey-Doak and Sullivan East after The Erwin Record’s press deadline.
The Lady Blue Devils are scheduled to travel to Elizabethton on Wednesday, April 22, for Three Rivers action against the Lady Cyclones and will host Sullivan South on Thursday, April 23, in Erwin. UCHS ends the week competing in the annual Tiny Day Classic hosted in Greeneville. The Lady Blue Devils open action on Friday, April 24, at 4 p.m. against North Greene. Two contests follow with games against Sullivan Central at 6:30 p.m. and St. Benedict at 7:45 p.m. to wrap Friday’s games. Pool play ends Saturday at 9 a.m.