Lady 'Clones have way with Rangers

Photo by Dave Boyd
EHS pitcher Kristie Keys controlled Unaka.

By Wes Holtsclaw

   After Thursday's loss against Unicoi County, the Elizabethton Lady Cyclone softball unit had something to prove against county rival Unaka.
   With strong defense and pitching from Kristie Keys, the unit found offense and never let up on the Lady Rangers.
   Led by three multi-run hits, the squad left victorious with a 10-0 shutout victory at home Friday afternoon.
   "Unaka's a great program. We just hit the ball well today and got a few breaks when we needed them," said Elizabethton coach Ken Hardin. "I'm real proud of the team for coming back from yesterday -- we had a tough time against Unicoi County -- I'm more proud of that than anything."
   Elizabethton only allowed three hits through the first six innings, whereas its squad pulled out ten hits, nine of which came in the final two frames of offense.
   "One or two fell in, then we got aggressive and really started going after the ball," Hardin said. "They did a great job hitting the ball today."
   "Everybody contributed today. Any time you beat Unaka, it's a good softball win," he said. "Ronnie's got a good team and they should go far in the tournaments."
   Six errors hurt the Lady Rangers, who gave up nine of the 10 runs in the final two innings against Elizabethton.
   "We had seven or eight up there (at Unaka) and they beat us 7-5. This time we couldn't find a place to go," said Unaka coach Ronnie Hicks. "It seemed like we were hitting it straight at them all day."
   "It's hard to overcome the errors. We've talked about that in team meetings," he said. "I just never know which team is going to be out there. If we play clean defense, we're not going to hit the ball. If we kill the ball, we're not going to play clean defense. If we ever put all of that together, we're going to be tough to handle."
   Jessica Moffitt, Kristi Moffitt, Brittany Taylor, Kelly Allen, Dani Williams and Amy Colbaugh each had a hit for Unaka in the game.
   Williams, Colbaugh and Taylor had hits in the final inning, but couldn't muster a run across the plate.
   Elizabethton didn't get its first hit, dating back seven innings to the Unicoi County game, until a Whitney Lyons grounder in the third inning.
   However, Mary Edgar got on with a fielder's choice to set up an RBI tap from Jessica Robinson that was later plagued with a Unaka error to give the Lady Cyclones the early lead.
   The Lady Cyclones didn't get going again until the bottom of the fifth inning, when Tia Nave opened with a double, followed by singles from Maggie Austin and Caitlin Kerley.
   Robinson stepped to the plate with another big shot, this time delivering a two-run double. She would later score on a throwing error by Unaka.
   Elizabethton got its five other runs in the sixth inning when Lyons drove two runs across the plate with her single, and Robinson completed her five-RBI day with another two-run double.
   She scored again on an error off the bat of Katie Hubbard to make it 10-0.
   For the home unit, Keys pitched a complete game against Unaka's senior ace Williams, with her team backing things up in the field with a perfect, errorless performance.
   "We finally started playing as a team," Keys said. "This is probably the best defensive game we've had so far. It was a great game."
   For Robinson, who completed the game with a two of four performance, it was a game the team has worked hard for.
   "We really deserved to win this game because we've worked hard," she said. "We wanted to make a good impression and beat them because they are a good rivalry."
   Elizabethton will face Sullivan North at home on Monday for Senior Night before facing Volunteer on Tuesday and Sullivan South on Wednesday.
   The games are important for the Lady Cyclones, who want to get placed in a favorable bracket.
   The Lady Rangers will host University High on Tuesday in what will be the key decider if they win or share the Watauga Valley crown.
   "We can win the conference outright. We don't want to share it, we want to win it straight out," Hicks said. "I hope we're fired up for that. It seems like the past couple of games, we've just not really had the fire that we need to compete with the teams that I've scheduled.
   "I think we get down and don't know how to come out of it sometimes."