Unicoi trims Lady Warriors

By Wes Holtsclaw

   CHURCH HILL -- Once the Happy Valley Lady Warriors reached their peak Wednesday night, they came down fast.
   The Unicoi County Lady Devils were waiting.
   In the District 1-AA winners' bracket final at Volunteer, Unicoi took advantage of some crucial fielding errors late and came away with a 4-2 victory.
   Happy Valley took a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning and had control until the sixth, when Unicoi got three straight hits and two runs after a Lady Warrior error with two outs.
   "These girls never give up," said Unicoi coach Doyle Phipps. "We practice like that and they play hard. We had clutch hits tonight."
   "That's just the way they are," he said. "They know they are supposed to be here and they don't like not being picked to win. We had some baserunning errors -- that was my fault. But we should've scored two or three more runs at least."
   The Lady Devils (28-11) advance to the championship game on Friday at 5 p.m., while Happy Valley will meet Elizabethton, which defeated Sullivan Central 4-3, in the losers' bracket final today at 5 p.m. at Volunteer.
   Unicoi took an opening 1-0 lead in the second inning when Stephanie Byrd led off with a single. She scored on an RBI single from Rachel Tilson.
   The unit left two on base after two outs at the plate to end the inning.
   The Lady Warriors responded in the fourth as Kortney Goulds walked and Jessica Blevins took a base on a fielder's choice. Jennifer Osborne singled before a Christy Shell fielder's choice and a free base from Randi Williams, who was hit by a pitch, brought Goulds and Blevins across the plate for an HV lead.
   However, things went bad in the fifth inning for Happy Valley.
   With two outs off the opening batters, an error at third base advanced Rachel Tilson.
   Then Natalie Lockner, Kellye Lingerfelt and Crystal Rutherford had three straight hits to give Unicoi County a one-run lead.
   "We had two outs and they got two runs," said Happy Valley coach Karri Killen. "We didn't and it opened the door for them."
   Unicoi kept it going after Emily Bennett walked in the seventh. Byrd came up with another big hit for the Lady Devils, when she singled the fourth run across the plate for the Lady Devils.
   Happy Valley had one final chance in the game, with Kate Powell singling and Alicia Dick walking before the two final outs.
   Added Killen: "A good ball game comes down to one or two plays, and whoever makes them is going to win. Things went right for them."
   Lockner took the win for the Lady Devils after only giving up four hits and striking out four. Dick got the loss on the mound for the Lady Warriors.
   Killen knows the Lady Warriors will have a battle on their hands against Elizabethton, which fought Happy Valley to one-run games both times during the regular season.
   "We're not overlooking Elizabethton. They are a good ballteam," she said. "It's going to be a battle and we've got to be focused for them."
   Loser's Bracket semifinal
   Elizabethton 4
   Sullivan Central 3
   After splitting earlier in the season with Central, the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones were engaged in a pure defensive mode in the loser's bracket semi-final.
   Taking a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning, Elizabethton withheld a late comeback run from the Lady Cougars and held on to take a victory.
   Central took the first lead in the game in the second inning when Calgary Collins advanced on an error and scored when Sarah Stone bunted, and was safe at first when nobody was there to catch the throw.
   Elizabethton quickly bounced back with Jessica Robinson advancing on a fielder's choice and Lana Blevins joining with a single.
   Tia Nave stepped up and hit a big two-run double to give the Lady Cyclones their first lead.
   Elizabethton got back on the board in the bottom of the fifth after Brittany Smith doubled and Kristie Keys singled.
   A throwing error by Central catcher Courtney Brickey allowed both runs to come across the plate, and the Lady Cyclones looked to be in good position for victory.
   In the sixth, Central opened with a single from Shelley Ray and a walk to Jennifer Rankins.
   Trisha Conn hammered one into center field, but Mary Edgar made the play of the game after catching the ball, when she launched a rocket home where Ray was tagged out at the plate.
   "The double play in center field was big," said Elizabethton coach Ken Hardin. "She got hurt the other day and came through with a big play. It was really motivating for us."
   Rankins later scored on an RBI single from Brickey, but that out would prove to be the game-saver for Elizabethton.
   Central made one final rally in the seventh.
   Collins advanced on a fielder's choice and moved around the bases to score on a Sarah Stone double.
   Stone was in position, but Elizabethton got two outs in the field to save the win.
   Kristie Keys took the victory on the mound after a complete game.
   "Kristie had good hands at the mound and pitched a great game," Hardin said. "Central's a good hitting ballclub."