Ferguson shoulders load for 'Blazers at Eastman

Jeff Birchfield • Apr 7, 2014 at 7:36 PM

KINGSPORT — Daniel Boone was the highest finishing local team at the Eastman Invitational for a third straight year after a marathon performance by pitcher McKenzi Ferguson.

Ferguson threw four games Sunday in leading the Lady ’Blazers to a third-place finish, which matched their 2013 efforts. They capped off the day with a 4-2 victory over Greenbrier, which had beaten them 8-1 a day earlier.

“I started (coaching Boone softball) in 2003, and I can only remember one pitcher throwing as much as she did one day,” coach Rick Wagner said of Ferguson. “That was Carrie Harper my very first year. She was Superwoman today. Even the loss today, she was throwing her good stuff.”

Before the final pair of games at Domtar Park, the Lady ’Blazers scored wins over a pair of other area powerhouses. Boone beat University High 8-1 in the round of 16, and Ferguson gave up just three hits against Unicoi County in a 6-0 quarterfinal victory.

The win over the Lady Devils was particularly sweet as Boone avenged a 2-1 loss to Unicoi on Thursday. The Lady ’Blazers had their chances in a 2-1 semifinal loss to CAK as Allison Littleton tied the game off a passed ball in the fifth inning.

However, they weren’t able to push any more runs across despite having bases loaded and one out. Emma Webb hit a walk-off single for CAK the next inning, which spoiled an otherwise perfect day for the Lady ’Blazers.

“If we had just had a couple more timely hits against CAK, we could have been playing for the championship,” Wagner said. “But this was a good weekend for us.”

It was the third straight top-three finish in the tournament for Boone, which won the Eastman Invitational in 2012. Ferguson gave up four hits over six innings in the third-place win over Greenbrier, while Meredith Good had the key hit, a two-run double in the fifth inning.

“It was a great day to beat such quality teams,” Wagner said. “We’re starting to get a little identity at the plate. Defensively, we toyed with some stuff to better handle the short game. It’s not that we’re bad at it, but these girls are so fast. We made some adjustments, moving people around in certain situations that I think will help us in the long run.”

Unicoi County bounced back from the Boone defeat to beat Powell 6-3 in the consolation semifinals. The Lady Devils jumped out to a 5-0 lead with two-run singles by Kaylee Nicholoson and Abby Hensley, and a RBI double by Tiffany Laughren.

Laughren, who was also the winning pitcher, scored the final run off a wild pitch.

The Lady Devils weren’t able to keep the momentum going and lost 5-4 to Volunteer in the fifth-place game. Kellie Kirk provided the game-winning single for the Lady Falcons in the sixth inning. While it was a solid weekend for Unicoi County, it fell short of six-time Eastman tournament champion’s expectations.

“We won seven ball games, and I guess 7-3 is not horrible,” Unicoi County coach Grady Lingerfelt said. “There are other teams which would like that, but we would have liked to have won this last one against Volunteer.”

Science Hill had a short day with a 7-0 loss to tournament champion Halls in the round of 16.

Halls was just getting warmed up.

The Red Devils defeated Volunteer in the quarterfinals, and then came from behind to defeat Greenbrier 4-3 in the semifinals. They rallied from a 5-2 deficit to beat CAK 9-5 in the championship game for their second straight Eastman title.

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