Elizabethton gets past Lady 'Dogs

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR CORRESPONDENT
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   It wasn't until the sixth inning before the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones decided to turn the bats loose, as they defeated Hampton in a 7-4 final.
   With the game winding down, the Cyclones unleashed in the top of the sixth to score four runs and earn a conference win, after suffering a loss to Unicoi the night prior.
   "We started off playing really bad, but we picked it up in the last couple of innings and finally started hitting the ball," said Lady Cyclone coach Angie Barker.
   Both teams produced a run each in the first frame, when Elizabethton's Katie Hubbard connected on a hit to drive in Kristie Keys.
   The Lady Bulldogs answered with a score from Heather Chambers, after a ground hit by Joy Gardner brought home the run.
   Hampton took a two-run advantage in the bottom of the second frame, when a single by Chambers scored Lauren Pittman and Michelle Oaks.
   "We were pretty down today and didn't come out ready to play, but we pulled it out in the end and I guess that's all that matters," said Elizabethton's center fielder Sarah Smith.
   Elizabethton came back to tie the contest in the top of the third, when a double from Hubbard scored Michelle Collins.
   Jessica Robinson followed up with a single to drive home Hubbard, making it a 3-3 duel.
   "We really needed to step up our game, and it took more than what we thought coming in, so we had to step it up a notch after being down with losing to Unicoi," said Cyclone catcher Brittany Hilton.
   After smacking a double to center field, Oaks was able to come home when an error throw to first base enabled her to cross the plate.
   "At first we were playing relaxed defense, and then we decided we were not going to make more mistakes and start playing with some heart," said Hilton.
   The Bulldogs held a 4-3 lead heading into the sixth frame, but the Cyclones were not to be denied. They came to the plate with the intentions of letting it rip.
   "They had a good inning and got some people on base by making the hits, but I was happy with our effort today," said Lady Bulldog coach Pat Kelly. "We eliminated some mistakes."
   Elizabethton tied the game when a sacrifice fly to right field from Kristie Keys brought home Caitlin Kerkley.
   "When you have one bad inning that decides the game for you, then it's tough to take that inning, but six out of the seven they played real solid ball," said Kelly.
   A ground-double by Collins drove in two more runs with Ashley Jenkins and Sarah Smith scoring.
   "The infield really stepped up its defense, and then we came up big on batting, so that was good," said Smith.
   The last run if the game was produced after Hubbard crushed a double to center field, which brought home Collins.
   "We get down and usually stay down, but everybody stayed up and did the job we had to do," said Barker. "We rotated some people in, and they were able to come away with some big hits."
   Hampton was unable to make a rally in the final inning, going three and out with a grounder to first ending the contest.
   "We can play with a team like Erwin when we pull ourselves together and come out ready to play," Barker said. "We can play with anybody like we did these last two innings."