Lady Warriors  break through to beat Unicoi

By Wes Holtsclaw

   KINGSPORT-The Happy Valley Lady Warriors proved that they could overcome two big obstacles this weekend.
   Attacking the Kingsport/Eastman Softball Invitational, the Lady Warriors battled through some tough victories leading to a Saturday meeting with the team that ended their 2002 campaign: Knox Gibbs.
   The ladies ousted eventual tournament runner-up Gibbs 2-0, moving to a key game with Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett at Eastman Park Sunday.
   Happy Valley fell 4-3 in a tough eight-inning morning contest only to match up with conference rival Unicoi County.
   Motivated after a 2-1 loss to Ooltewah, the Lady Devils entered the game showing pure motivation ready to add a fourth victory over their rival this season.
   It was not to be.
   Backed behind a two-run double from Jennifer Osborne, solid pitching from Kortney Goulds and breathtaking defense, Happy Valley defeated Unicoi County, 2-1, in their first ever softball victory over the neighbor.
   "They have the heart and talent to take themselves as far as they want to go, and that's the key right there," said Happy Valley coach Karri Killen. "They wanted this game. This was our fourth game against them this season. Any win at this point is a big win for the girls. It's a moral victory for them because they know they can and are capable of beating (Unicoi County)."
   The play of the game took place in the sixth inning after Lady Devil Stephanie Byrd smashed a double into right center. Wendy Woods followed up with a shot into centerfield, allowing Byrd's courtesy runner to advance around the bases.
   Lady Warrior Jeanie Hawkins took the ball and launched it towards catcher Mandy Byrd, where Byrd recorded the out and saved the win for Happy Valley.
   "That was a perfect throw," said Byrd. "I was waiting and I was ready for it. I knew that if she could get it there, I would be on the ball. I was just pumped up I guess. It couldn't have been any better."
   "Jeanie really stepped up there and made a great throw," said Goulds, who earned a victory on the mound. "Without her, we could've went into extra innings. She kept us in the game today."
   "It's got to take a perfect throw to get somebody out on a play like that," Killen added. "Jeanie plays hard and hustles, she came up and made the throw. Mandy Byrd, hanging in there; all the way around, it was a good play."
   The Lady Warriors opened the game with some scoring opportunities after singles from Kate Powell and Mandy Byrd. Two quick outs caught Happy Valley off guard and made them wait.
   After a quick defensive hold, the maroon and white responded with two big singles from Jessica Blevins and Hawkins. Jennifer Osborne stepped it up with a big double into right-center, scoring two runs for her squad.
   From that point out it was anybody's game, as defense spoke for the contest. Kellye Lingerfelt and Wendy Woods added singles for Unicoi County through the third and fourth innings, while Byrd and Osborne got on base for the Lady Warriors.
   Unicoi County worked their way back around in the fifth inning, when Lingerfelt got a piece of a fastball and ripped it into centerfield, pulling her squad within a run of an evened contest.
   The Lady Warriors held their composure and battled through it leading to the final inning and the huge play. Goulds added a strikeout with a solid 5-3 out to take the win.
   The game was a pure confidence booster for the Lady Warrior squad, after closing the gap considerably against the defending state champion over the past year.
   The Lady Warriors evolved from being down over ten runs last year, to losing 5-0, 4-0 and 2-1 this season, eventually taking the win.
   Said Goulds: "I think this was a really big confidence booster for us. Now that we've got by them once, we know we can beat them again. It's just a great thing we did today. It really doesn't help us anywhere, it's just a great thing mentally."
   "Every game has been a big game for us," Byrd said. "We're just taking it game-by-game, but we keep gaining momentum. I knew we would probably face them again, just getting them here and getting a win is a lot for us."
   It was Goulds' tenth victory on the season over Unicoi's Natalie Lockner, and the first time the Lady Warriors didn't see Beth Haun on the mound.
   Goulds felt she did her job on the mound, but the game was won by her teammates.
   "That was a good game that I pitched, but I can't do it myself," she said. "The defense gave 110 percent behind me and without your good defense, a pitcher's nothing because all you can do is throw it over the plate."
   After a solid overall week, Alicia Dick was named to the All-Tourney squad for the Lady Warriors.
   Dobyns-Bennett 4
   Happy Valley 3
   In their early outing, Dobyns-Bennett took advantage of some Lady Warrior miscues to advance to the winner's bracket with a 4-3 victory in eight innings.
   Said Killen: "When you start the international rule, you've got to get the job done. We didn't and they did. You've got to finish the game and make the plays to win. That was the big difference there."
   The game was tied 2-2 at the end of regulation, while both teams scored a run in the seventh inning.
   The Lady Warriors battled around the bases in the eighth inning, but Terra Whaley was caught off third base forcing a second out and digging a hole for her squad.
   Lauren Carrico stepped up for the Lady Indians with an RBI double in the final frame to take the victory. Mandy Hartsock took the victory over Alicia Dick on the mound.
   Hawkins added an RBI single for the Lady Warriors, while Kate Powell was two of three.
   Knox Powell 5
   Happy Valley 2
   After their victory against Unicoi County, Karri Killen's squad met against her former Daniel Boone teammate Heather (Peterson) Vogt's Powell Lady Panthers troop for fifth place.
   The Lady Warriors held their own before the 3-A squad took over with a deciding two runs in the fifth inning.
   Powell opened with a Kenda Lucas single and a Candace Bryant errored base, setting up a Nikki Hargis RBI single to take a 2-0 lead. Goulds responded with an RBI single of Byrd to cut the gap.
   The Lady Panthers tallied another run in the fourth inning, when Samantha Kooch was brought across the plate from a Lucas RBI single. Again Happy Valley responded, this time from a solid Jessica Blevins homer.
   Hargis and Amanda Wampler got on base in the fifth inning for Powell, scoring on a Kendall Duncan errored shot into the outfield, giving their squad a 5-2 decision.
   Wampler took the victory over Dick on the mound.
   Happy Valley 2
   Knox Gibbs 0
   Kate Powell, Mandy Byrd and Alicia Dick were key sluggers for the Warriors in their victory over Gibbs on Saturday.
   Dick had a two-run single in the sixth inning of the contest, giving Happy Valley the win over the eventual tournament runner-up (lost to Bearden 5-0). Kortney Goulds gave up one hit in her victory from the mound.
   Said Killen after the tournament: "Hopefully, they're still hungry and out to win. We've got to take the Unicoi game as a win. This game's over and done. They did a good job, but we've got to go on, we have other games to play."
   The Lady Warriors battle Daniel Boone at home Monday with a game time set for 3:30 p.m.