Lady 'Landers start fast, fade in setback to North Greene

By Kim Richardson
STAR Correspondent

   Those who saw this season's ladies district 1 Single A basketball tournament at Milligan College saw the coming out party, so to speak, of what will surely be a star basketball player for the North Greene Lady Huskies. She's sophomore Chelsea Wright.
   Wright and her North Greene teammates actually took eventual state tournament participants -- the Lady Rangers of Unaka -- down to the bitter semifinal game end before Wright left the game after fouling out.
   Well Wright is at it again, this time in the role of starting shortstop, and clean-up hitter for the Lady Huskies' softball team. She went three for three, including a leadoff triple to deep right field to begin the top of the third inning Thursday, to propel North Greene to a 10-4 Watauga Valley Conference win over Cloudland.
   Wright would score the only run through four innings for North Greene, as her team trailed the Lady Highlanders 4-1 after four.
   Cloudland answered the single run in the bottom of the fourth with a run of its own, regaining its three-run margin, having shot out to a three to nothing lead in the first inning. 
   But the three-run margin was soon erased when the suddenly lively bats of the Huskies, helped by some untimely errors on the part of the Highlanders, assaulted the home team with five runs in the top of the fifth inning, giving the Huskies more than enough for victory as the Highlanders bats became conspicuous by their absence.
   "We got out to a good start in the first," said Cloudland head coach Gary Keith. "Maybe it was too easy for us early, because we sure didn't do much offensively after that."
   In fact the Lady Huskies were the ones to start the error onslaught by hitting three batters to help the Highlanders gain the upper hand. But after the three run first, and the answer to Wright's run in the fourth, Cloudland was finished scoring in what would ultimately be a win over the Highlanders.
   "We got some hits in the bottom of our lineup," stated North Greene head coach Chris Gardenhour. "Of course Chelsea and Amy (starting third baseman, Amy Best) played very well defensively."
   Best, Lindsay Evans, Vanessa Dykes, Tiffany Weems and Kim Wilcox each had one hit; and added to Wright's three, the Huskies were a hot hitting team with eight for the game.
   Said Wright: "We didn't get much done offensively in the first part of the game, but our defense kept us in it early before we began to hit the ball."
   Wright actually began threaten the 'Landers in the first when she drew a walk. As things turned out, Wright's walk turned to full gallop when she lined the third inning blow deep toward the right field wall.    
   Best said: "Cloudland is certainly much better than they were at this time last season. I think that says a lot about their coach and their work ethic. We were able to make enough plays in the infield which kept us in the game."
   Best had a very steady game at third base and was also a threat on the base paths.
   Coach Keith felt that his team was a little too rusty after the long spring break during Easter Weekend.
   "We had some time off and the weather sure hasn't cooperated either, but I take full responsibility for the lost time," he said. "We're going to have to find a way to practice more in early season. We need a lot of work on the fundamentals of the game to be better."
   The Highlanders are definitely better, much better than last season. They've already won six games this year -- two each against Tri-Cities Christian and Hampton, plus one apiece against Avery County and Mitchell County, both located in North Carolina. 
   Nikki Cordell, a junior, is one of the many under-classmen on the Cloudland team.
   "We seemed to lose confidence in ourselves when we made a couple errors in the big fourth inning," said Cordell. "We were playing good defense, putting the bat on the ball well early, but we need to learn to bounce back from our mistakes and not repeat them. We just have to play with more confidence to compete with the better teams." 
   Cordell was the leading hitter for the Highlanders with two hits in four at bats. Tryphenia Denton, Daranda Byrd, and Nikki Carrow each had one hit for the Highlanders, giving them a total of five.
   Tryphenia started the game in the circle for the Highlanders and pitched well for the most part. However, the errors in the fourth, fifth and sixth were too much for Denton, and then relief pitcher Kayla Blevins, to overcome.
   But one thing was obvious: The Highlanders are a better team, both fundamentally and in experience. And the future looks even better; Cloudland has only two seniors on the team to go along with a great work ethic.
   "They work hard; we just have to get more time to get outside, practice and play. They have the right attitude and they want to win -- that's what's important," concluded Coach Keith.