By Keeli Parkey
The Unicoi County High School softball team capped off a busy first week of action with a 9-1 victory over Johnson County on Monday, March 27, in Erwin.
“We got off to really slow start and didn’t hit the ball well,” head coach Grady Lingerfelt said following the game. “They have a good pitcher who throws the ball hard.”
The Lady Longhorns got off to a strong start in the top of the first inning when Hannah Brooks hit a solo home run, giving her team a 1-0 lead.
The Lady Devils (7-3, 3-1) responded with 3 runs in the bottom of the third inning. UCHS took control of the game in the bottom of the sixth inning, scoring 6 runs en route to the victory.
“We finally started to hit the ball,” Lingerfelt said of his team’s sixth inning performance. “We made some things happen with the run game and bunts. We played small ball and that paid off for us.”
Senior Neelee Griffith, junior Tanya Chavez and sophomore Halie Hawkins led the Lady Devils at the plate against Johnson County with 2 hits each. Hawkins had 2 RBIs; Griffith and Chavez had 1 RBI each. Senior Savannah Lafever had the only other hit for UCHS in the game. Lafever and senior Ashley Edwards had an RBI each.
Halie Padgett got the win in the circle, giving up 1 earned run and striking out 4 batters.
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The Lady Devils took fourth place in the gold division of the annual East Tennessee Classic played at Johnson City’s Winged Deer park on Friday, March 24, and Saturday, March 25.
UCHS opened tournament pool play with a 8-0 win over Volunteer on Friday. Senior pitcher Hannah Bowen got the shutout win for the Lady Devils, allowing just 6 hits to go along with 6 strikeouts.
UCHS had 13 hits in the game, including 3 by senior Keelie Hall and 2 each by Chavez, Griffith and Lafever. Junior Rylee Stiltner, Griffith and Lafever had 2 RBIs each.
In their second pool play game the Lady Devils earned a 5-1 victory over Grainger, thanks to 6 solid innings of pitching by sophomore Allee Griffith, who had 3 strikeouts, no walks and allowed 4 hits in the win. Padgett came on to pitch an inning in relief. Hawkins led UCHS with 3 hits in the win. Stiltner (2 RBIs) and Bowen had 2 hits each.
The ladies’ bats came alive on Saturday against Chuckey-Doak in their final pool play game of the tournament. UCHS scored 6 runs in the first inning and 14 in the second to defeat the Lady Black Knights 20-0.
N. Griffith hit 2 home runs and had 5 RBIs in the game. Hawkins had 3 hits and an RBI. Chavez (1 RBI), Lafever, Edwards (1 RBI), Stiltner, Padgett (4 RBI), Jaimie Edwards and Bowen had 2 hits each.
Their victories in pool play qualified UCHS for the gold division of tournament play on Saturday where they first faced Dobyns-Bennett.
The Lady Devils found themselves trailing 3-0 after the top half of the first inning. UCHS answered in the bottom of the second with 2 runs, then tied the game with 1 run in the bottom of the third inning.
With the game tied, Dobyns-Bennett took advantage of miscues by the Lady Devils to take a 6-3 lead. UCHS couldn’t answer in the bottom half of the inning and Dobyns-Bennett won the game.
Chavez, N. Griffith (2 RBIs) and Hawkins had 2 hits each for the Lady Devils.
The loss sent the Lady Devils to the consolation game where they fell to Science Hill – a team they had defeated earlier last week – 6-3 to finish in fourth place.
Chavez (1 RBI), Bowen and Hawkins had 2 hits each in the game.
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UCHS played their first Three Rivers Conference game of the season on Tuesday, March 21, against the rival Elizabethton Lady Cyclones. Despite holding the lead for most of the game, the Lady Devils saw the victory slip out of their hands when Elizabethton scored 3 runs on the top of the seventh inning to leave Erwin with a 5-3 win.
Trailing 3-2 in the top of the seventh, Lady Cyclone Allison Riddle hit an RBI double to give her team the lead for good.
UCHS scored their 3 runs in the bottom half of the third inning.
Padgett and Bowen (2 RBIs) had 2 hits each for the Lady Devils in the game.
“Elizabethton is a good team and they got some hits at the right time,” Lingerfelt said of the loss.
Following the loss to Elizabethton, the Lady Devils bounced back with a 6-2 win over Sullivan East on March 22 and a 14-1 win over Sullivan North on March 23.
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The Lady Devils will play in the annual Eastman Tournament this week. They will open play on Thursday, March 30, with a pool play game against Gate City, Va., at 5 p.m. at Brickyard 1 in Kingsport. They will play Siegel in pool play later that evening at 8 p.m. at the same location. Pool play will continue for UCHS on Friday, March 31, at 6 p.m. against Karns and at 9 p.m. against Cosby at Domtar 7. The Lady Devils will play their final pool play games at 11:30 a.m., against Tennessee High, and Morristown West, at 2:30 p.m., at Brickyard 4 on Saturday, April 1. Tournament play will begin Saturday evening and continue on Sunday, April 2.
Lingerfelt said he expects the Eastman Tournament to be a good measuring stick for his squad.
“We need to keep improving,” he added. “We haven’t played our best yet. We could have won all three games that we have lost. … We will be playing good teams in the Eastman Tournament. It will be a challenge the whole time.”
UCHS is also scheduled to host Sullivan South at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 4.