Lady Cyclones escape North
By Wes Holtsclaw

   For seven innings, it seemed somebody wasn't going to let the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones leave home happy.
   In a District 1-AA softball quarterfinal encounter with Sullivan North, the Elizabethton ladies couldn't punch in a crucial game-winning run during regulation.
   The Lady Raiders almost took advantage of their own situation in the eighth inning, but solid defense gave the home squad a chance to take the win.
   Sophomore pitcher Jessica Robinson held her own through eight innings and she came up with the hit to keep the team alive.
   After Maggie Austin opened the stanza with a bunt and advanced to second on an error, Robinson launched one towards the left-center gap and her team escaped with a 2-1 victory.
   "It was a great ballgame," said Elizabethton coach Ken Hardin. "It was one of the best I've been in. We've played in big tournaments and against big schools, and this was why. We didn't panic."
   It was a much different Sullivan North team than the Lady Cyclones had seen earlier in the week. Elizabethton defeated the squad 11-1 at that time.
   "North's a good team," he said. "We couldn't get a two-out hit. Everytime we hit the ball hard they made the play. It's fun to play a game like that."
   For North, which tied the game at one in the fifth inning, Tasha Spears and Jessica Arnold had the team set up in scoring position.
   Spears walked to start the eighth, before an Arnold single. Cheyenne Redmond advanced on an infield error, but Lady Cyclone Lana Blevins made up for it.
   Blevins made a quick grab on an Anna Beth Dean liner and a quick toss out to third for a double play to save the team.
   Austin and Robinson stepped up from there.
   "She made a great defensive play to get out of that inning," said Hardin.
   For Robinson, she felt the need to capitalize with the game on the line.
   "I hadn't hit it good the whole game and I wanted to step up for the team," she said.
   On the mound, she was successful, only allowing three hits and striking out seven.
   "She pitched a fantastic game, what else can you say," added the coach.
   Elizabethton opened the game on a down note when starting outfielder Mary Edgar was hit with a tipped ball.
   However, the Lady Cyclones battled through the inning with a big double from Kristie Keys, who stole third and advanced home on an errored shot from catcher Katie Hubbard.
   The Lady Cyclones had another chance in the second with back-to-back doubles from Brittney Smith and Caitlin Kerley, but the first of the two-out jitters arrived with both runners left on base at the end of the inning.
   In the third, the same thing happened again. Redmond had two straight errors to allow Hubbard and Lana Blevins on base for the Cyclones, but again the runs didn't score.
   North battled back in the fifth with an opening triple from Brittany Moore. She scored on a sacrificed grounder from Spears to tie the game.
   The Elizabethton ladies got things going in the sixth inning with Kerley (fielder's choice), Austin (single) and Mikael Oliver (walk) loading the bases.
   But as before, the team couldn't capitalize with two outs.
   The seventh inning was a repetitive situation for Elizabethton, with Blevins singling, Tia Nave advancing on an error and Smith taking a bag on a fielder's choice.
   But the team was halted with a pop fly and the game was sent into the extra inning.
   Smith and Austin led Elizabethton with two hits in the game, while three led North with one.
   Arissa Vaughn took the loss on the mound with the complete game for the Lady Raiders.
   The Lady Cyclones will meet Unicoi County at 7 p.m. Monday night in the double-elimination section of the district tourney at Volunteer.