Science Hill clips Elizabethton

By Ivan Sanders

   ERWIN -- Trailing early in the game, the Lady Cyclones made a rousing rally to even the game at 2-2, but in the end the Lady 'Toppers rode the blazing arm of Whitney Hawkins to hold off the determined Lady 'Clones and take the opening game of the NFS softball tournament played at Unicoi County's Little League softball field on Friday evening, 4-3.
   Early on the game was tight as neither team could punch a run through in the first two innings even though each side was able to reach the opposing pitcher for at least a hit.
   Ashley Hawkins collected a single and teammate Ashleigh Jackson added a double for Science Hill while Sarah Smith of Elizabethton laced a single and a stolen base for the Lady Cyclones to provide the only offense in the first two frames.
   The Lady Toppers broke the ice first in the top of the third as Fisher was hit by a Kristie Keys offering and scored on a single by Chelsey Smith for a 1-0 'Topper edge.
   Meanwhile, Hawkins was blazing bullets as she set the Lady Cyclones down on consecutive strikeouts in the bottom of the inning.
   Science Hill added another run in the top of the fourth as Ashleigh Jackson reached on a hit and came around to score to give the Lady 'Toppers a 2-0 advantage. Elizabethton put on their rally caps in the bottom of the inning and were able to catch SH at 2-2.
   Keys stroked a single to lead off the fourth and was followed up by another single from the bat of senior Michelle Collins to place runners at first and second.
   Katie Hubbard picked up a RBI as she scored Keys with a single and Collins raced home on the play as Science Hill fell asleep on the incoming throw to knot the score.
   Wasting little time, the Lady 'Toppers cashed in with two runs in the top of the fifth as Fisher and Kristen Klem ripped singles to lead off the inning. Ashley Hawkins then tore into a pitch for a double and a RBI as Fisher raced in to score.
   Klem then scored as Smith grounded out to Hubbard at third for the RBI. Keys managed to get out of the mess as the Cyclone hurler enticed SH into two more ground ball outs to close out the frame.
   The Lady Cyclones weren't ready to go down without a fight. In the bottom of the sixth inning, 'Betsy managed to cut into the Science Hill lead with Smith lacing a single and swiping second. Smith advanced to third on a Keys fly ball out to right field.
   Collins then picked up Smith as she grounded out sharply to short. Hubbard followed up by reaching on an error with Abbie Jenkins smoking a single to put Cyclones in scoring position. Hawkins did her job as she was able to get Brittany Hilton on a full-count, swinging strikeout on a nasty fastball.
   Elizabethton wasn't able to make anything else happen as the Hilltopper defense rose to the occasion to put out any other hopes of rallying the Lady Cyclones had.
   "It was a great game, but out mental errors ended up costing us," said Cyclone coach Angie Barker. "Hawkins is a great pitcher and she was throwing with great velocity today, and was probably the fastest pitcher we've seen all year."
   The Lady Cyclones were back in action on Saturday in Unicoi County.