Fairman, Lady Cyclones outlast Johnson County

By Ivan Sanders

STAR CORRESPONDENT

   Opening season games are suppose to be boring and a time for coaches to see how their team will react in a real game situation. Such was not the case when Elizabethton and Johnson County stepped on the softball diamond on Thursday evening.
   The season opener for both teams was a gem as it took 11 innings for the Cyclones to conquer the visiting Longhorns, 6-5 at Elizabethton High School.
   It was a contest that a "L" in the loss column wasn't deserved by either team. As a matter of fact, it might serve notice to the other teams in the league that these two schools aren't going to back away from anyone.
   "The biggest thing that has helped us is the fact we learned how to win last year," stated an emotionally drained Lady Cyclone head coach Gerald Jenkins. "We have five or six girls who really want to win as a result of our success late last season."
   One of those ladies is senior Brandy Fairman who pitched a phenomenal game as she recorded 15 strikeouts and walked only two in the complete game masterpiece.
   The game began with Johnson County jumping on top early in the first inning by a score of 1-0. Andrea McQueen reached base on an error and was driven home by Erin Payne on a scorching single to right field.
   The Lady Cyclones answered back in their frame of the first.
   Freshman pitcher Laura Peters of the 'Horns must have had a case of the nerves as the young hurler couldn't find the strike zone in the inning walking four Cyclones and hitting two.
   Stephanie Cline got things going by taking a pitch on the leg. Fairman walked as did Jamie Grindstaff. Freshman Codi Taylor picked up an RBI on another base-on-balls and Brittany Hilton finished things off by getting plunked to record an RBI as well.
   The next four innings were filled with one defensive play after another by both sides. The Lady Cyclones stranded six runners over the stretch while Johnson County was only able to put two runners on board.
   The sixth inning saw the Lady 'Horns get things rolling again as McQueen once again entered the picture reaching on another error by the 'Clones second baseman.
   Peters helped her own cause as she ripped an 0-2 pitch to right field, scoring McQueen to tie the game at 2-2. Rebecca Boney plated Peters for a 3-2 lead after the Lady Cyclones first baseman couldn't handle a throw after a tough defensive play by the second baseman.
   Johnson County recorded two quick outs in the bottom of the inning before left fielder Rachel Pierce hammered the first pitch offered to left field.
   Cline walked once again putting runners at first and second before Fairman hit a pitch toward the Johnson County third baseman who couldn't make a clean pick-up allowing Pierce to score, knotting the game at three all.
   Both teams then went into a defensive posture, with the game entering extra innings after a quick three-up and three-down seventh inning.
   It wasn't until the fourth extra frame that either team plated another run.
   Playing under international rules due to the game entering the tenth inning or later due to a tie score, Deena Hensley was put at second base as she was the last out of the previous inning. Peters then walked and Payne advanced the runners with a single to load the bases.
   Boney then delivered a shot to right that plated both Hensley and Peters to give the 'Horns a 5-3 advantage.
   "The girls did everything we talked about they needed to do for a win," said Lady Longhorn coach Dana Smith. "The game was lost because of a coaching mistake I made in the last inning by not walking the three and four hitter to load the bases."
   What Smith was referring to was allowing the heart of the Lady Cyclone line-up to face the tired freshman pitcher.
   Kauffeld was placed on second because of being the last out in the 10th inning. Sarah Smith walked and Pierce dribbled one back to Peters for the out at first, but drove in Kauffeld with Smith advancing to third.
   Cline gained first on a walk to place runners at the corners. Smith raced home on a wild pitch to tie the game at 5-5 with one out.
   Fairman then came to the plate with the opportunity to finish off the marathon, and delivered a hot smack down the third base line just inside the chalk, scoring Cline with the winning run.
   "We're going to build on this ballgame," stated an exuberant Fairman. "We had two freshmen in the game at first and third and a lot of butterflies, but we all shook off our nervousness and the freshmen really stepped up."
   The Lady Horns out hit the Lady Cyclones 5-3, while EHS left 13 runners stranded compared to six for Johnson County. Both pitchers went the distance with Peters issuing 14 walks and hitting three batters while adding 9 K's.