EHS, Unaka fare well in jamboree

By Ivan Sanders


   A beautiful weekend provided area girls high school softball programs the opportunity to dust off final preseason jitters and get some live experience against other competitive teams through high-profile scrimmages that most participate in while preparing for the new season.
   The jamboree, which began by the Unaka Lady Ranger program a few years ago, saw teams for the Watauga, Watauga Valley and Big 7 conferences as well as teams from North Carolina participate in games limited either by four innings or a one hour rule with TSSAA umpires making the calls. Games began on Thursday and continued through Saturday.
   On Friday evening at Elizabethton High School, the Lady Cyclones hosted the Tennessee High Lady Vikings for a four-inning tilt. After struggling the previous evening, the Lady Cyclones appeared to shake off the nightmarish game and looked like a team that was starting to gel.
   Particularly impressive was the pitching performance of sophomore Kristi Keys, who was in mid-season form by allowing the Lady Vikings only one hit and one run while setting down eight Lady Vikes on strikeouts. Meanwhile, Keys' teammates manufactured four runs in support of her effort to give the Lady Cyclones a 4-1 win.
   Tennessee High was able to get on the scoreboard first as Carter was hit by a Keys offering and scored on a hit by Tester to give the Lady Vikes their one and only lead for the contest.
   Keys jumpstarted her club in the bottom portion of the inning by driving a triple to deep center field. Freshman Katie Hubbard then drove Keys home on a single to even the score at 1-1. EHS wasn't finished as the DH Whitney Lyons knocked Hubbard in for an RBI and a 2-1 Lady Cyclone lead after one complete.
   The next scoring opportunity for the Lady Cyclones came in their last at bat for the game as senior Michelle Collins reached on a walk. Senior catcher Brittany Hilton came to the plate and laced a single to put runners at first and second for EHS.
   Lyons then helped create two runs for her team as the junior laid a perfect bunt down, and in an attempt to nail Lyons at first the Lady Vikes third baseman threw the ball over the head of the first baseman and two runs scored with Lyons taking second.
   Keys set the Lady Vikes down quickly to bring an end to the contest, with the Lady Cyclones taking the win.
   On Saturday morning at Unaka High School, another team with a storied history, the Unaka Lady Rangers, was putting on the final touches in preparation for Coach Ronnie Hicks' 18th season at the Lady Ranger helm by entertaining the Central Cougars on a gorgeous, sun-filled morning.
   With flame-throwing Danielle Williams on the mound, the Central Lady Cougars managed to reach the Lady Ranger hurler for two hits through the first two frames, but behind three strikeouts and some good defense from her infield, Williams kept the damage at nil.
   Needing to generate some offense, Williams took charge by ripping a single to start the bottom of the second. Williams' courtesy runner took second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on a fielders choice. Emily Elliott picked up the RBI by also banging out a single to give the Lady Rangers the early lead.
   Central responded in the top of the third on four consecutive singles to take a 2-1 edge going into the bottom of the frame for Unaka. Unaka wanted nothing to do with the Cougar lead and it didn't take long to turn the tide.
   Tara Bishop reached on a walk, Kelly Allen ripped a single to pick up a RBI, and Julie Roberson roped a double over the centerfielder's head. Jessica Moffitt was hit by a pitch and after a Lady Ranger fly out, Amber Woods smacked a double to pick up both Roberson and Moffitt. Elliott closed out the scoring barrage by collecting the third double of the inning for Unaka.
   Moffitt replaced Williams in the top of the fourth and the Lady Cougars weren't too friendly to the young hurler as they scored two runs on a single and a double after a leadoff walk. Freshman Ryann Musick was called on to quench the Cougar's roar and faced two batters to preserve the 6-4 victory.
   All the area teams will be starting their regular seasons this week and it looks to be a very entertaining and competitive season in store after seeing some of the action from the jamboree. Check the STAR for preseason previews on all the local teams in Carter County.