By Keeli Parkey
The Unicoi County High School softball team cruised through pool play in the annual Eastman Tournament in Kingsport last week, but couldn’t advance through the bracket portion of the event and compete for the crown.
“That is a very good tournament,” head coach Grady Lingerfelt said. “Overall, I thought we played very well.”
The Lady Devils (14-3, 4-0) played two games on Thursday, March 28, neither of which counted toward the tournament results. In these two extra contests, they defeated Cherokee, 4-2 and Greenbrier, 2-0.
“Both of those games were good games, especially the win over Greenbrier,” Lingerfelt said. “They are a really good team who usually competes at the state tournament.”
Senior pitcher Allee Griffith pitched both games on Thursday with a combined 12 strikeouts in the two wins.
Offensively for the Lady Devils against Cherokee, Samantha Chavez and Carly Kinsler had 2 hits and 1 RBI each. Halie Hawkins, Chloe Powers, Griffith, Ashtan Vance, Kiley Bennett and Kaylia Street (1 RBI) each had 1 hit. Betsabe Chavez had 1 RBI.
Against Greenbrier Hawkins (1 RBI) and Powers each had 2 hits. Griffith (1 RBI), Samantha Chavez and Betsabe Chavez each had 1 hit.
The victories on Thursday gave the Lady Devils momentum and confidence going into the weekend. The team began pool play in the annual event on Friday, March 29, defeating both William Blount and Walker Valley.
“We played extremely well on Friday,” Lingerfelt said.
Against William Blount, the Lady Devils saw an early 2-0 lead turn into a tie game by the end of the fourth inning. However, UCHS was able to take advantage of runners on base in the top of the sixth inning. Betsabe Chavez reached on a single, then moved to second when Vance walked. Sophomore Caroline Podvin then drove in Chavez for the go-ahead run. The Lady Devils won the game, 3-2.
Griffith was again the winning pitcher with 5 strikeouts.
Betsabe Chavez was 3-3 at the plate. Hawkins, Powers, Griffith (1 RBI), Samantha Chavez (1 RBI) and Vance each had 1 hit. Podvin had 1 RBI.
Next up for the Lady Devils was Walker Valley. Lingerfelt’s team jumped all over the 2018 Eastman champion in the first inning – scoring 4 runs. UCHS added 2 more runs in both the fourth and fifth innings and won the game 8-2. Griffith was the winning pitcher.
Kinsler went 3-3 at the plate in this game with 1 RBI. Hawkins (1 RBI), Cassie Selvage, Powers, Griffith (1 RBI), Samantha Chavez (1 RBI), Vance and Bella Bogart (1 RBI) each had 1 hit. Betsabe Chavez had 1 RBI.
“William Blount is an exceptional team,” Lingerfelt said. “We hit the ball very well.”
On Saturday, March 30, the Lady Devils were sluggish at the start of their pool play game against Paintsville, Kentucky, but battled for a 2-0 victory.
“We should have won that game by a lot more,” Lingerfelt said. “We didn’t play very well.”
Griffith threw 9 strikeouts and 2 hits in the win. Hawkins (1 RBI), Powers, Samanta Chavez, Kinsler, Betsabe Chavez and Vance each had 1 hit.
The final pool play game for the Lady Devils was a 13-0 blowout victory over Three Rivers Conference for Sullivan Central Saturday afternoon. Juniors Abbie Grindstaff (6 strikeouts) and Hannah Shelton (1 strikeout) were in the circle for the Lady Devils.
Bogart had 2 hits and 1 RBI against Central. Street (2 RBIs), Selvage, Powers (2 RBIs), Kirsten Buchanan, Kinsler (2 RBIs), Podvin (1 RBI), Jimena Rodriguez and Allison Hensley each had 1 hit. Samantha Chavez and Betsabe Chavez each had 1 RBI.
The Lady Devils’ success in pool play gave them the number three seed out of 16 teams going into the tournament portion of the event. Unfortunately, Lingerfelt’s team was running low on energy going into the first game of the tournament on Saturday night.
Matched up against Cookeville, the Lady Devils managed only 1 hit in the game.
“Cookeville is an excellent team,” Lingerfelt said. “Their pitcher was as good as anyone I have seen in the tournament. She was left handed, which makes it harder to hit. We just didn’t play well. We ran out of gas.”
The loss eliminated UCHS from the event. Knox Powell won the 2019 Eastman Tournament.
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The Lady Devils hosted Elizabethton in Three Rivers Conference play on Tuesday, April 2, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue. They are scheduled to travel to Johnson County on Thursday, April 4, for a conference game beginning at 5:30 p.m.
They will host the annual NFS Tournament on Friday, April 5, and Saturday, April 6, at Lady Devil Diamond in Erwin. Lingerfelt’s team will play Sullivan South at 4 p.m. on Friday and Johnson County at 5:30 p.m. They will wrap up pool play on Saturday against Chuckey-Doak at 9 a.m. The tournament portion of the event will begin at noon on Saturday.
“We are very grateful to NFS for sponsoring this tournament each season,” Lingerfelt said. “They have been a wonderful supporter over the years.”
The Lady Devils will resume conference play on Tuesday, April 9, at home against Sullivan Central at 5:30 p.m.