UH captures 1-A softball title

Jeff Birchfield • May 14, 2014 at 8:48 PM

University High didn’t take much time to celebrate winning the Region 1-A softball crown over North Greene Wednesday evening at ETSU’s Betty Basler Field. The players and coaches were already looking ahead to Friday.

That’s when the Lady Bucs (33-8) will host Meigs County in the sectional round at a time yet to be determined. A win will give University High its third straight state tournament berth. A loss will mean the end of the season.

Regardless of that outcome, the Lady Bucs’ season has already been filled with hardware. Wednesday’s 4-1 win over the Lady Huskies gave UH a sweep of conference, district and region titles. Still for a team with five seniors, they might as well be holding up a sign, “Murfreesboro or Bust.”

“The worst we could do this season is 10 losses, but I don’t want another loss and these girls don’t either,” University High coach Keith Jeffers said. “I know they’re happy with the accomplishments they’ve made so far, but we’ve been to state twice. We want to go to state and our ultimate goal is to bring that title back.”

It didn’t mean the Lady Bucs could afford to take North Greene lightly. The game was tied 1-1 in the fifth inning until Miranda Honeycutt’s sacrifice fly to left field scored Madi Freeman. The Lady Bucs added a couple of insurance runs in the sixth as Taylor Treadway, Belle Bright and Mollee Cohee had three consecutive stand-up doubles.

“They were playing a good game and we were in a battle,” Jeffers said. “Miranda’s sacrifice fly was huge because we were tied and getting that run across was big.”

It helped starting pitcher Tanner Horton earn her 24th win of the season. The junior with the hard-to-hit screwball struck out six, gave up five hits and walked just one in a complete-game effort.

Bright led UH at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a RBI and two runs scored. The senior catcher, who is committed to Tennessee Temple, has been on a tear since coming back from a midseason thumb injury. She knew exactly what the situation called for when her team led just 2-1 in the sixth.

“I saw it was a close game,” Bright said. “I knew what I had to do. We put in everything we had and did what we had to do to get the win.”

Cohee came through twice with Bright in scoring position. She hit a single to advance Bright to third in the first inning and then had the RBI double for the game’s final run.

“We weren’t hitting the ball that well this game, but we had some clutch hits when we needed them,” Cohee said. “We knew what we had to do. If we put the ball in play, good things will happen.”

Ari Ramsaran had a RBI single to score Bright in the first inning, while the Lady Bucs had plenty of highlights in the field.

Barrett Wherry recorded four outs while battling the sun and win in center field. Then, Treadway made a spectacular diving catch when the Lady Huskies’ Macy McNeese popped up a bunt attempt in the sixth inning..

Talley Bailey suffered the loss for North Greene, which will head to Region 2 champion Knoxville Grace Christian on Friday. Bailey was charged with two runs off four hits in five innings of work before giving way to Emily Starnes.

At the plate, the Lady Huskies found some production at the bottom of the lineup.

Anna Craft was 2-for-3, including a RBI to score Abby Weems in the fourth inning, while Julia Penley also finished 2-for-3. Most of all, head coach Renee Light liked how her team battled the Lady Bucs for the entire game.

“My girls are pretty solid defensively,” Light said. “UH has beaten about every single-A school by double digits. I think we’re the only team in our conference which has competed well with them. I’m glad to see that out of my girls.”

Cohee and her teammates were happy to come through with the victory and posed for pictures afterwards. More than the region title, however, they celebrated the chance to play on ETSU’s field one more time.

“It’s a big accomplishment because that’s one thing we wanted to do,” she said. “Hosting sub-state is important for us. But, we aren’t done yet so we’ve got to keep fighting through it.”

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