Opportunity knocked and the University High softball team answered.
Taking advantage of six North Greene errors, the Lady Bucs won the Region 1-A championship 7-1 Wednesday evening at ETSU’s Betty Basler Field.
Knocking around eight hits and pitcher Haley Faulkner giving up just five hits to go along with the miscues, it was a winning recipe for the Lady Bucs, who improved to 30-11.
“Our girls put it in play,” University High head coach Keith Jeffers said. “We do a good job, getting bunts down, getting bats on the ball where they at least have to make a play on us.”
Mikki Burke was the perfect example of a UH player taking advantage of opportunities. She got on base twice by errors, and then helped create another scoring opportunity with a stolen base to finish with three runs scored.
“It helped that I had a team to back me up when I did get on base,” Burke said. “They hit the ball really well today. I like that we won the regional championship my senior year. It feels really good to go this far.”
Sarah Mast scored a pair of runs, also taking advantage of two North Greene errors. In addition, Belle Bright added some timely hitting at the plate with RBI singles in both the first and second inning.
Playing on ETSU’s field instead of a normal high school field was different, but something the Lady Bucs quickly adjusted to.
“It was really stressful out there,” Bright said. “But it helped having people on base in position to score. We like to play on this field. We feel it gives us a little advantage.”
The Lady Bucs built a 3-0 lead by the second inning, and answered with two runs in the fifth inning after Katie O’Neil scored North Greene’s only run.
Bright scored off Faulkner’s RBI ground out, while Mollee Cohee scored off an error.
In the sixth, Mast and Burke scored two more runs, the last one coming off Tanner Horton’s RBI single.
North Greene (12-17) missed its best opportunity in the second inning when Megan Taylor, Corinne Guelli and Shayna Harmon all singled with one out. University High squashed any chance of a big inning with a force out at home plate, and Faulkner following up with a strike out.
On the night, Faulkner ended with just three strikeouts, but did plenty to increase her record to 23-7.
“She’s an excellent pitcher, and UH has some hitters who know how to place the ball better than my girls do,” North Greene head coach Renee Light said. “But all in all, we did better in this game than we did the last four games with them.
“I told my players to keep their heads up. We still have the sub-state left and it’s been a while since North Greene has been in the sub-state. We’re just going to go and give it our all.”
The Lady Huskies will play at Region 2 champion Coalfield in their sectional matchup. University High will host Grace Christian 6 p.m. Friday, again at Basler Field.
“It’s huge to be able to play that game at home,” Jeffers said. “These girls have worked hard and improved every week. We know it will be a tough game, but we’re going to practice and do what we can to get ready for it.”