Science Hill's baseball and softball teams have several things in common this season as both got off to somewhat rough starts.
Also, each team played tough competition at the beginning. Now they are both on a roll.
The baseball team lost two of its first four games, but had ripped off nine straight wins heading into Monday's contest against Tennessee High.
Meanwhile, the Lady Hilltoppers started 2-6 but have righted the ship with nine wins in their last 10 games.
Winning has been as simple as pitchers throwing strikes, said baseball head coach Ryan Edwards.
“I told our guys as long as we throw strikes we've got a chance to win,” said Edwards. “We snuck in a couple of wins where we wouldn't have had a chance if we didn't throw strikes. Those wins gave our guys some confidence.”
Included in the 11-2 start were come-from-behind victories over Murfreesboro Oakland and Dobyns-Bennett.
“Those were two key wins, and quality wins,” said Edwards. “Against Oakland it was 1-0, and we were down to our last strike with nobody on base. We came back and won, 3-1.
“And against D-B it was 4-1 late in the game. Depth of pitching has helped us. When we've come back, we've not given the lead up.”
Among that depth is a pitching staff that produced 11 wins without a victory from ace Will Craig.
“He was rained out, and another time we pulled him early from a non-league game,” said Edwards. “And he got a no-decision against D-B.”
Science Hill has gotten five wins from sophomores while Reed Hayes and Daniel Sweeney have combined for five wins.
At the plate, Craig is hitting at a .600 clip. Hayes and Kyle Ouelette have been driving in runs when teams have pitched around Craig.
Defensively, Edwards said his team has been very strong up the middle. Connell Boyle and Matt Beaird have locked things down behind the plate while second baseman Tucker McPherson, shortstop Kyle Wilson, and Hayes (cf) have made their share of plays.
As for the Lady Hilltoppers, the schedule played a big role in the slow start, said head coach Jerry Higgins.
“We lost several one-run games to good teams,” said Higgins. “But the girls started producing the way they needed to produce.”
And that production is based mainly on making plays in the field.
“I've told them over and over, we have to catch it,” said Higgins. “We're not so talented that we can make mistakes. We've got to make plays when they are makable.”
Also, Higgins said the pitchers have to hit their spots. That's something Vanessa Elliott did very well in Saturday's 4-3 win over Unicoi County in the title game of the Nuclear Fuels Services tournament.
The Lady Hilltoppers had suffered two blowout losses to Unicoi on the season, but got the big win in a six-inning, time-limit-shortened contest.
“Elliott pitched super,” said Higgins.
Now the Hilltoppers will have to focus on the task ahead and try not to think about Daniel Boone, which finished as Class AAA state runner-up last season. The Hilltoppers will play host to Boone in a makeup game on April 12, and then travel to play the Lady Trailblazers on April 19.
Higgins said he's not concerned about his kids looking ahead.
“Our girls are so loose, I couldn't even imagine them knowing who we play until they get to the game,” said Higgins. “When it's time to play, they play.”
But the coaches know a little something about Boone, said Higgins.
“Boone has a lot of people back, and they are loaded with talent all the way through the eighth grade,” he said. “They have to prove themselves, but I think they are just as good talent-wise as last year.”
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Pigeon Forge is again looking like a team that could make things tough for an area Class AA baseball team with designs on reaching the state tournament.
The Tigers boast right-handed pitcher Wil Crowe. The 6-3, 225-pound senior has signed with the University of South Carolina.
Crowe is 4-0 and recently dusted Sevier County with a one-hit shutout, racking up 10 strikeouts. He also recorded a perfect game against Knox Bearden, and boasts a 95-mph fastball along with a curveball and changeup.
Unicoi County saw Crowe first hand last season as Pigeon Forge denied the Blue Devils a spot in a state tournament with a 5-2 decision in a sectional contest. Crowe had 11 strikeouts and five walks in that game.
The Blue Devils and Pigeon Forge have each started fast this season. Pigeon Forge is 13-0 while Unicoi is 9-0.
Unicoi County has scored double-digit runs six times in those games. The Blue Devils have also held their opponents to three runs or less four times.
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Baseball games of the week — (Today) Unicoi County at Sullivan East, Elizabethton at Johnson County, Unaka at University High, (Thursday) Daniel Boone at Elizabethton, (Friday) Happy Valley at Unicoi County, (Monday) Daniel Boone at Dobyns-Bennett, Elizabethton at Unicoi County, North Greene vs. University High.
Unicoi County has a big week for Three Rivers Conference contests. …
University High has a chance to establish its presence as the Watauga Valley Conference frontrunner.
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Things remain basically stable in this week's Prep Top 10 baseball rankings, but Happy Valley earned the No. 10 spot.
Team W-L Prv
1. Unicoi County 7-0 1
2. Science Hill 11-2 2
3. Dobyns-Bennett 9-2 3
4. Sullivan South 5-4 4
5. Daniel Boone 6-4 5
6. Tennessee High 4-3 7
7. Elizabethton 6-8 6
8. University High 5-2 8
9. Johnson County 2-1 9
10. Happy Valley 6-3 nr
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Softball games of the week — (Today) David Crockett at Science Hill, Happy Valley at Unicoi County, (Wednesday) Daniel Boone at David Crockett, (Thursday through Saturday) Eastman tourney in Kingsport.
Happy Valley was off to a fast start before getting clipped three times in a tournament in Cookeville. The Lady Warriors will get a chance to bounce back, but the task is tough against the powerful Lady Blue Devils.
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There was mostly a holding pattern for this week's softball rankings, but Science Hill battled up a spot to No. 4.
Team W-L Prv
1. Daniel Boone 9-2 1
2. Unicoi County 8-1 2
3. Elizabethton 6-0 3
4. Science Hill 11-7 5
5. Greeneville 3-0 4
6. Dobyns-Bennett 10-7 6
7. Happy Valley 5-3 7
8. Volunteer 5-4 8
9. Tennessee High 4-3 9
10. University High 5-2 10