Jessie Wheelock heard all the jokes.
The Daniel Boone shortstop was frequently teased by her teammates how she had come just short of hitting home runs this season.
It is a joke no more.
Wheelock blasted a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning to lift the Lady ’Blazers to a 2-0 victory over Jefferson County in Monday’s Region 1-AAA softball semifinals. Once Wheelock made contact, there was no doubt the ball was going to clear the 200-feet distance in left field.
“They aggravate me all the time,” Wheelock said. “I will hit the fence or hit the top of the fence and it never goes over. They call me 199.9 and it aggravates me to death.
“I was just happy to come out and produce those two runs and win the ballgame.”
There was plenty of motivation for a Lady ’Blazers squad filled with players from last year’s team which was upset in the regional semifinals. With the victory, Daniel Boone (43-4) advanced to Wednesday’s Region 1-AAA championship against the winner of today’s Science Hill at Seymour game, and also to Friday’s sectional round.
There wasn’t much offense needed as starting pitcher Kellie Waycaster allowed just three hits to improve to 31-2. She wasn’t overpowering by any means, striking out four batters, but relied heavily on her teammates to do their jobs in the field.
“What I was going for today was throw it in there and let my teammates make the routine plays,” Waycaster said. “They did it, executed very well. You can’t ask for a better defense than what I have.
“I know I don’t have to overpower many teams. I have a great team behind me and they very seldom make many errors. They’re just good.”
They were good enough at the plate as well.
Wheelock ended 2-for-3 with the two RBIs, while lead-off Jennine Duncan was 3-for-4 and scored Boone’s other run.
Nine hits for the Lady ’Blazers also included doubles by Hannah Montoya and Waycaster.
Still, Boone head coach Rick Wagner saw his team down early in the contest as the Lady ’Blazers left runners stranded at second and third in both the first and third innings.
“Early in the game, we left a lot of base runners on,” Wagner said. “But, we were hitting and getting a lot of people on. Every time we came up short, our girls looked a little dejected coming out of the dugout. I had to tell them we were putting pressure on them.
“Kellie made big pitches when she had to, we made the plays when we had to, and I knew if we kept getting runners on, good things would happen.”
Randi Hill went the distance for Jefferson County (25-11) to keep the Lady Patriots within strking distance. They had tying runners on base in both of the final two innings.
“Coming in, we knew it was going to be a dogfight,” Lady Patriots head coach Bekkah Massaro said. “Boone was able to push two runs across, while we left runners on base. Our defense played good, but defense can’t score runs. We had opportunities to score. We just didn’t capatilize on them. Any opportunity you have against a good team like Boone, you have to put those runners across.”
Besides his players, Wagner gave credit to Boone’s ground crew for making Monday’s game happen. Daniel Boone and Unicoi County were the only teams who hosted Region 1 games after rain fell a good portion of the day.
Most of all, he was pleasantly surprised by Wheelock’s game-winning shot.
“I never dreamed Jessie would hit one out of here,” Wagner said. “She has been known to have 198 power on this 200 fence. I’m just glad she found that three extra feet to get it over today.”