Lady Warriors slip by Elizabethton

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com

   A seventh-inning Elizabethton rally tied the score against Happy Valley after the Lady Cyclones had trailed 6-2 since the third, but Kortney Goulds made a saving slide into home after Mandy Byrd smacked one deep in the bottom of the extra inning to give Happy Valley the 7-6 win Wednesday afternoon on the HV field.
   "We had some long balls that they caught," said Happy Valley softball coach Karri Killen. "We just had to get somebody on base in order to move them around. We had two outs and a runner on third, and luckily Mandy just got one of the fly balls over her head and scored Kortney. She just stepped up and did her job."
   The Lady Warriors made quick work of Elizabethton's batters in the first, tagging the first three out at first base. First up for Happy Valley was Goulds, who knocked a single into right field. Lady Warrior starting pitcher Alicia Dick flew out to center field, but collected an RBI as Goulds crossed the plate.
   The Lady Cyclones retaliated in the top of the second, as first-baseman Katie Hubbard opened the inning with a double into deep left field. Second-baseman Jessica Robinson followed suit with a hit, sending Hubbard to third and setting up camp on first base. Hubbard raced home on a loose ball, tying the game for Elizabethton.
   After Dick threw a strikeout, Tia Nave (3 for 3) stepped into the box and knocked a single to center field, scoring Robinson. Whitney Lyons, who was 2 for 4 on the evening, added a hit to Elizabethton's tally.
   However, another strikeout from Dick gave the Lady Cyclones two outs. Nave and Lyons advanced to second and third, but Happy Valley catcher Byrd threw to Jessi Blevins at first base for Elizabethton's final out.
   "We hit the ball well today," said Elizabethton coach Kenny Hardin. "We just didn't hit them all together. I felt really good about the hitting. It was a team effort."
   Not to be outdone, the Lady Warriors pulled ahead again in the bottom of the second inning. Kate Powell hit a base hit along the left foul line, but Cyclone shortstop Mary Edgar caught Blevins out on the fly. Jennifer Osborne knocked a single to Cyclone pitcher Kristie Keys, who threw a fielder's choice to second base, but the call was safe.
   Right-fielder Christy Shell smacked a triple, sending Powell home, and Osborne slid across the plate after a missed catch at home plate. Goulds hit a single that scored Shell, making the score 4-2.
   "Defense played pretty good," said Hardin. "We made a few mistakes early, but I'm really proud of the girls. They played hard today."
   "Elizabethton is playing well," said Coach Killen. "I've seen since the jamboree, from watching and talking to other coaches, that they're playing really well. They're going to be really competitive - they're a good team."
   Happy Valley held Elizabethton scoreless in the top of the third, and took advantage of their turn at bat to put two more points on the scoreboard. After Whaley and Blevins got on with base hits, they both scored as Osborne flew out to right-fielder Maggie Austin, making the score 6-2.
   It was a battle of the pitchers for the next three scoreless innings, as Keys manned the mound for Elizabethton, and Dick and Goulds, who took over for Happy Valley in the sixth, kept the lead intact for the Lady Warriors.
   "It was a fantastic ballgame to go eight innings," said Coach Hardin. "Kristie pitched fantastically. This was a big game for us. We've been working so hard since we started this year. These girls are just determined."
   In the top of the seventh, Elizabethton bounced back from their four-point deficit, slowly weakening the Lady Warrior grip on the lead until they tied the game, forcing the bottom of the seventh to be played. After pinch hitter Caitlin Kerley was tagged out at first, Edgar went to first on a hit.
   Lady Warrior shortstop Powell caught a fly ball for the second out, and Keys stepped up to the plate for the Lady Cyclones. With two strikes and two outs, she smacked a single to keep Elizabethton in the game. Hubbard took first base on an error as Edgar ran home. Robinson took second base on a fielder's choice to first base gone awry, as Keys and Hubbard made it across the plate to make the score 6-5.
   Abbie Jenkins hit a single to send Robinson home, tying the game, and stole second on a loose ball, but a strikeout from Goulds put the Lady Warriors back behind the plate.
   Happy Valley's first two batters flew out to left field, and Blevins hit a double, but an out at first base ended the inning with the score tied at six.
   "We're still rusty," said Killen. "We've got a lot of work to do. Starting the season like this, we've had maybe a week and a half, two weeks with everybody here. You can tell we're still working out some kinks."
   Each team sent four batters to the plate in the eighth and final inning, but only Happy Valley sent a player all the way around. For the Lady Cyclones, Lyons hit a double, but was left on base as the next two batters flew out and the third went out with a toss from third-baseman Randi Williams to Blevins at first.
   During the Lady Warriors' turn at bat, Williams smacked one to deep right, but went out on the fly. Shell made it to first, but was tagged out at second during Goulds' stand at the plate. A base hit put Goulds in scoring position as Byrd pulled through for Happy Valley with a long hit.
   Byrd rounded second base as the Cyclone fielders tried to tag Goulds at before she slid home, but failed.
   "Our expectations are set higher from other people than what I have for us right now," said Killen after the game. "I don't want to take anything away from (Elizabethton), but we've got to cut down on the errors and the mental mistakes."