Lady Warriors swallow bitter pill vs. Unicoi

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR STAFF
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   CHURCH HILL -- The outcome wasn't what the Happy Valley Lady Warriors wanted, but their efforts Friday night revealed the heart and dedication of a championship team.
   After defeating Volunteer 14-7 earlier in the evening, Happy Valley faced off against Unicoi County in the District 1-AA title game. The game was a solid pitching and defensive duel between Kortney Goulds and Beth Haun.
   The Lady Warriors led 1-0 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, then Natalie Lockner lined a grounder to Leanna Howell.
   Howell tossed it to Jessica Blevins at first for what appeared to be an out, but both umpires called Lockner safe.
   The Tribe sealed two straight outs against Unicoi County, but the decision of the umps would show as Happy Valley would've forced another championship game Saturday.
   An errored shot from Danielle Huskins scored Lockner and set up Haun, who smashed a two-run homer into left field to seal a 3-1 championship victory for the Lady Devils.
   It was a great softball game between two outstanding teams, but the outcome wasn't what Happy Valley coach Karri Killen wanted to see.
   "We don't want any breaks," Killen said after the game. "But it's hard to have calls go against you all night. Once they call it, it's done."
   It was fitting that the Lady Devil leader, Haun, took the victory after she was let down by her defense in the fifth inning with three errors.
   Lady Warrior Alicia Dick led off and made her way on base with an error before Kate Powell stepped up with a single. Dick made her way around towards third, when an throw past Unicoi's third base gave her the score for Happy Valley and another error advanced Powell.
   Happy Valley (26-12) did a good job of holding its own until the seventh inning, but Killen was pleased with the way her squad handled itself.
   "I would not do anything different," she said. "This is what softball is about, two good teams playing hard down to the wire. Both teams deserve a lot of praise and respect.
   "I really hope our girls will get the respect they deserve after this."
   Unicoi County coach Charlie Baxter felt good to see his team bounce back for another district championship after a strong effort from Happy Valley.
   "At the end, I was glad to see Danielle and Beth come up and get us on with two big back-to-back plays," Baxter said. "Kortney (Goulds) threw a great game and left a lot on the field. Happy Valley played great tonight and they are a fine team."
   "It was hard, but we've got to keep our composure," Goulds said after the game. "Defense will win you games and they laid it on the line tonight. Alicia (Dick) and everybody busted their tails. I didn't like how they singled people out for the all-tournament team because everybody deserved it tonight."
   "Coach K says that we have to lay it on the line and we tried to give it our all," Dick said. "We all played hard and hustled to get grabs and make plays out here tonight."
   Unicoi County (39-6) will open the regional with a home game against the loser of District 2-AA's South Greene and West Greene final, while Happy Valley will face the winner of the series on the road Monday.
   Said Baxter: "You play these tournaments to win and the benefit of winning is playing at home. We're happy to be in that situation."
   Jessica Blevins led the Lady Warriors with two hits, while Jenny Peterson went three of four for Unicoi.
   Happy Valley 14
   Volunteer 7
   In the championship play-in game, the Lady Warriors were scared in the second inning against the Volunteer Lady Falcons.
   With some defensive mistakes reminiscent of Thursday's loss to Unicoi, the Lady Falcons took a 4-2 lead over Happy Valley. However, the Lady Warriors responded with an nine-run fourth inning and eventually put Volunteer away, 14-7.
   The Lady Falcons opened with Candace Marshall, Kellie Simpson and Mycah Arnold all getting on due to errors and fielder's choices. RBI singles from Kasey Gilliam and Ashley Bennett helped tack three runs on the board.
   Happy Valley followed with a walk and single from Jessica Blevins and Kortney Goulds, before an Alicia Dick double drove in two runs for the Lady Warriors.
   Not to be outdone, Ashleah Dykes led off with a single for Volunteer with a Simpson shot giving the blue and red a 4-2 lead.
   The Lady Warriors were fired up going into the fourth inning, with two singles from Blevins and Goulds, adding to a Dick errored shot, loading the bases. Blevins scored on a walk to Jennifer Osborne, before Kate Powell, Mandy Byrd and Terra Whaley all chipped in RBI singles.
   Leanna Howell stepped up for her squad with an dynamic two-run homer, and another Blevins single led to an Osborne RBI single to give Happy Valley the 11-4 lead.
   The Lady Warriors continued in the fifth with a fielders choice to Whaley, followed by another Howell RBI single.
   Volunteer led off the sixth with a single from Gilliam, who scored on a Bennett hit. Bennett took advantage of a Brittany Mabe sacrificed fly to pull within six.
   Happy Valley closed after a singles from Dick and Powell, with a triple from Osborne to take a 14-6 lead.
   The Lady Falcons got one more shot with a Dykes double and an Arnold RBI single, but it wouldn't be enough as the maroon ladies advanced to the regional tourney.