“I think we played in tournament mode,” said coach Grady Lingerfelt. “I thought we battled every game. Pool play was real tough. There were a lot of good Class AA teams in this tournament.”
After splitting a pair of games Friday, Unicoi won two on Saturday. Then the Lady Blue Devils beat David Crockett and Union County to set up a title-game showdown with Greeneville.
In a matchup between regular-season champions in District 1 and District 2, respectively, Unicoi won 1-0 in a game that went nine innings and needed the international tiebreaker rule to get things decided.
These teams could meet in the region tournament in two weeks, so it was an important game even though it was a regular season contest.
“It was a really good ballgame,” said Lingerfelt. “It was a pitchers’ duel. We kept getting out of jams.”
Pitcher Tiffany Laughren wound up on the winning side while Greeneville’s Jordan Fortel kept her team knocking on the door.
“We didn’t hit her,” said Lingerfelt. “She’s a very good pitcher, and an athlete and a half. Tiffany threw well. I think her and Kaylee (Nicholson) both are getting down to the end of the year and getting better.”
Unicoi’s Destinie Hayes finally broke the ice with a two-out RBI triple in the top of the ninth inning. More hitting like that throughout the lineup is needed for the Blue Devils to have postseason success, said Lingerfelt.
“Some of them are not hitting it as good as they can,” said Lingerfelt. “Everybody needs to step it up in the district, but we’re kind of taking a business-as-usual approach. We’re trying not to get too high or too low.”
Lingerfelt said Laughren and Hayes have been among the most consistent hitters this season, although Laughren has been intentionally walked many times after setting an all-time state record with 23 homers last season.
“Cassie Foster has had a real good season, too,” said Lingerfelt. “She has improved like crazy.”
With the district set to begin Wednesday at Sullivan North’s field, the Lady Blue Devils don’t play until Friday. Unicoi played a whopping 37 games in the month of April, including 11 this past week.
Greeneville is 23-4 on the softball season, riding the exceptional performances of Fortel.
The junior is hitting .600 on the season with a huge slugging percentage of 1.286. She has seven home runs.
In the circle, Fortel is 16-2, with both losses coming in international tiebreaker-rule games. She has an ERA of 1.00, and had totaled 124 strikeouts in 84 innings prior to the Tiny Day Classic.
Even with Fortel’s efforts, Greeneville head coach Bob Fortel said the Lady Greene Devils need to hit the ball to have postseason success.
“We’re going to pitch pretty good with Jordan (in the circle),” said Fortel. “We just have to hit with consistency.”
Bob Fortel said it was fun watching Fortel and Laughren battle pitch for pitch in Sunday’s game.
“It was neat watching two really good ballplayers go after it,” said Fortel. “If we play again, I would expect a similar game.”
Greeneville’s baseball team has put together quite a season, thanks in part to a recent nine-game winning streak.
The Greene Devils buzzed through the Blue Ridge Conference regular season with a perfect 10-0 mark and will be strong favorites for the District 2-AA tournament.
Greeneville, which is 19-6 overall, has a pretty tough finish to the regular season with Knox Powell (Monday), Daniel Boone (today) and Sevier County (Wednesday) on the schedule.
Several players are enjoying standout seasons, including shortstop Zack Finchum. The senior was hitting .500 in late April with 21 RBIs, 27 runs and 19 stolen bases.
Also swinging an authoritative stick were sophomore second baseman Lincoln Bowman (.400), senior shortstop Matt Barham (.389, 11 doubles, 25 RBIs), sophomore outfielder Chase Wagner (.379, 21 RBIs) and junior catcher Drew Patterson (.373, 13 stolen bases).
On the mound, Bowman entered last week with a 5-1 record, 1.07 ERA, and 40 strikeouts in 40 innings. Barham was also 5-1 with a 2.71 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings.
The Greene Devils, who lost in a Class AA sectional contest last year to eventual state champion Pigeon Forge, probably share a tri-favorite role for the Region 1-AA title along with Sullivan South and Unicoi County.
Prep signings: ETSU will make it official today with one of the area’s all-time best girls basketball players.
Science Hill point guard Tianna Tarter will join the Buccaneers’ program at 3 p.m. in Science Hill’s gymnasium. Tarter helped the Lady Hilltoppers reach the Class AAA state championship game in 2012 and 2013, and the semifinals in 2011. …
Science Hill’s Caprisha Webster made her college choice official last week. The Lady Hilltoppers’ volleyball standout signed with Lee University.
Follow Douglas Fritz on Twitter @FritzBlitzzz.
Dobyns-Bennett and Science Hill remain comfortably seated in the top two spots of the final Prep Top 10 baseball rankings of the season.
Team W-L Prv
1. Dobyns-Bennett 25-4 1
2. Science Hill 26-6 2
3. Sullivan South 20-8 3
4. Unicoi County 20-6 4
5. Daniel Boone 16-11 5
6. Greeneville 19-6 6
7. North Greene 24-4 7
8. David Crockett 13-16 9
9. Tennessee High 15-12 nr
10. Sullivan East 13-13 8
Volunteer stays at No. 1 in the final girls softball rankings of the season.
Team W-L Prv
1. Volunteer 32-7 1
2. Unicoi County 34-9 2
3. Daniel Boone 26-15 3
4. Greeneville 23-4 4
5. University High 27-8 5
6. Elizabethton 20-8 6
7. Happy Valley 19-13 8
8. Sullivan East 21-17 nr
9. Science Hill 17-19 7
10. David Crockett 13-20 10
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