CORRYTON — Unicoi County didn’t offer a whole lot of resistance to Gibbs.
The Lady Eagles scored early and often and rolled to an 11-1 mercy-rule victory in a Class AA sectional softball contest at Gibbs’ field on Saturday afternoon.
It was a season-ending loss for the Lady Blue Devils, who finished with a record of 42-9.
Unicoi, the Class AA state champion in 2002 and 2009, failed to reach the state tournament for the first time since 2007. The Blue Devils were making their first road sectional appearance after 14 straight years at home.
Gibbs improved to 38-5 and will play Tuesday in Murfreesboro.
“Gibbs is very good,” said Unicoi County head coach Grady Lingerfelt. “They wore it out. They hit the ball hard, and everything they hit seemed to find a hole.”
In hindsight, Unicoi may have lost in the sectional because of its Region 1-AA final upset at the hands of Greeneville.
“Any time you have to get on a bus and drive 2½ hours, you’re not going to play as well,” said Lingerfelt. “We messed up losing to Greeneville. We had to travel and that put us in a negative situation. Your chances at home are better.”
Unicoi missed a scoring opportunity in the top of the first inning, getting runners on second and third with two outs. But Kaylee Nicholson’s ground ball was turned into an out by Gibbs shortstop Dani Jefferson.
“Kaylee hit it off the end of the bat a little and the shortstop made a heck of a play,” said Lingerfelt. “If it had gotten through, we might have scored two runs and that might have changed things a little.”
Gibbs quickly went to work in its first turn at the plate. Leadoff hitter Megan Farmer doubled and Faith Lowry drove her in with a single. Unicoi’s Grayson Goddard turned a popup into a double play to prevent further damage.
However, big trouble arrived for Unicoi County in the second inning. A leadoff single was followed by a bunt single, and then a fielder’s choice where everybody was safe.
Ashley Swaney followed with a spinning cue shot between second and first to make it 2-0. Then Karri Byrd soft-served one over the third baseman’s head for a 3-0 lead.
After a flyout, Lowry hit a bloop single to center for a 4-0 lead.
At that point, most of Gibbs’ damage came on bloops and dinky hits. However, that would change.
Dani Jefferson hit a line-drive single to left field that plated two more runs. After an RBI groundout, it was 7-0 and the Lady Blue Devils were pretty much done.
However, Gibbs wasn’t done. The Lady Eagles started pounding the ball in the third inning. Five hits later, including Jefferson’s two-run triple, Gibbs led by a score of 11-0.
The pitching line was not pretty for Unicoi pitcher Kacy Silvers. She allowed 13 hits and 11 runs in three innings of work.
Gibbs pitcher Savannah Smith had a much easier time of things. She went the distance, allowing four hits with one walk and two strikeouts. The lone run was unearned.
“We didn’t play well, but we didn’t have many strikeouts,” said Lingerfelt.
Freshman Tiffany Laughren led the Blue Devils with two hits.
The hit parade was a long one for Gibbs. Lowry led with three hits and also drove in three runs. Jefferson finished with two hits and four RBIs.
Also getting two hits were Farmer, Smith and Byrd.
Gibbs will return to the state tournament for the eighth straight season. The Lady Eagles have won eight state championships, but none since 2000.
Meanwhile, Unicoi looks toward 2013.
“We will have the same team back,” said Lingerfelt. “I think we will be one of the better teams in East Tennessee next year.”