The Lady Devils would not allow the NFS Softball Classic crown to change hands during the tournament’s 18th year of existence.
The Unicoi County High School softball team (21-12) came out of the losers’ bracket with three straight wins on Sunday, April 10, to defend their crown with a 3-2 victory against Cherokee.
The Lady Blue Devils battled their way to the championship game, a common theme for the squad this season. After opening the season on a shaky start, the squad currently has a 13-4 record to boast during the month of April.
“We’re playing with more confidence,” Lady Devil head coach Grady Lingerfelt said. “We had to grow up sometime. We’re hitting the ball better and we hit the ball well during this tournament. I’m proud of the girls coming out the way they did today to win three in a row.”
With the bats starting to come alive, Blue Nation saw key performances from pitchers Halie Padgett (10-2) and senior Abby Hensley (8-6) in the final two games on Sunday, Lingerfelt said. He also praised the team’s overall turnaround during the recent stretch of tournaments.
Before rattling off a pair of victories against Cherokee in the double elimination championship Sunday afternoon, the squad opened the morning with a 10-1 win over league foe Happy Valley.
NFS Softball Classic
UCHS 3 – Cherokee 2
With a battle in the circle, the Lady Devils picked their spots offensively. Shortstop Rylee Stiltner knocked in Haley Peterson to give UCHS an early 1-0 lead, while right fielder Ashley Edwards ripped a hit through the gap in right-center for a two-RBI double to shore up the win.
Edwards went 2-for-3 in the game. Ashlie Padgett, Neelee Griffith and Haley Peterson added a hit each. Hensley picked up the triumph, tossing seven innings in the circle. The senior Lady Devil gave up two runs off five hits and rang up two batters.
UCHS 5 – Cherokee 4
Small ball was the name of the game for the first championship game. With the game tied, 3-3, the Lady Chiefs took a one-run lead during the top of eighth. UCHS opened the bottom half of the frame with Cassi Foster on base. Halie Hawkins got things going by scampering across to first base and the two were brought home by bunts from A.Padgett and Griffith to win in walk off fashion.
Hawkins led the effort offensively, going 2-for-4. Hensley went yard with a two-run shot while Stiltner plated a run in the fourth.
H. Padgett scored the win, allowing four runs off seven hits and striking out four. Lady Devil Savannah Lafever made a decisive play at third base to open up the eighth after reeling in a shot from center fielder Tanya Chavez, blocking a potential run opportunity by Cherokee.
UCHS 10 – Happy Valley 1
Hensley knocked a solo home run in the first, while Foster cranked a three-run shot in the fifth to punch the Lady Devils’ ticket into the double elimination championship contest.
Foster led the efforts at the dish, going 2-for-3 with 3 RBIs. Peterson brought in a pair of runs, while Hensley picked up the win in the circle.
Cherokee 1 – UCHS 0
The Lady Blue Devils only mustered two hits through a seven-inning contest, while Cherokee penciled their way into Sunday’s championship game.
UCHS 2 – Chuckey-Doak 1
H. Padgett picked up the win to send her team to the winners’ bracket final, while Griffith and Stiltner added two hits each against the team’s District 2-AA foe.
UCHS 6 – Elizabethton 1
Stiltner and Hawkins led UCHS with two hits each, while A. Padgett and Chavez drove in two runs each to lead an offensive showcase against the Three Rivers Conference-leading Lady Cyclones.
Hensley pitched five innings in the contest and gave up one run, an RBI from Lady Cyclone Lauren Brickey, and struck out two batters.
UCHS also saw Megan Gray and Griffith score twice in the victory.
UCHS 5 – Cherokee 4
Peterson had the magic stick for the Lady Devils during a chilly opening to the tournament on Friday, April 8.
The senior went 3-for-3 with 2 RBIs, including the game-winner in the fifth. Peterson and Griffith (2-for-3) each hit a home run in the contest.
H. Padgett picked up the win in the circle, tossing five innings and allowing nine hits and striking out eight.
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It was a split for the Lady Devils in conference action last week as they defeated Happy Valley, 6-1, on Tuesday, April 5, in Carter County, but lost a heartbreaker to Johnson County, 2-1, on Thursday, April 7.
UCHS used a four-run sixth inning effort to down the Lady Warriors on Tuesday. The Lady Devils had a 10-hit performance and received solid pitching from H. Padgett (6 IP) and Hensley, who came in relief. H. Padgett recorded the win allowing one run off seven hits with a strikeout.
A.Padgett led the Lady Devils at the dish, going 2-for-3 with 2 RBIs. Peterson, Hawkins and Foster each knocked in a run during the triumph.
It was a different story on Thursday, as Kelsey Duperry broke open a 1-1 tie with a solo home run to allow her team to pick up the upset victory in Erwin.
UCHS only mustered five hits against Johnson County, with Edwards coming up with the only multi-hit performance (2-for-3). Hensley worked a solid performance inside the circle, going the distance and allowing two runs off seven hits in the loss.
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The UCHS varsity softball team was scheduled to play Sullivan North and Elizabethton after The Erwin Record’s press deadline.