KINGSPORT — Science Hill and University High bounced back from disappointing losses in the Eastman Invitational softball tournament with a pair of victories early Saturday afternooon.
The Lady ’Toppers beat Letcher Central (Ky.) 6-2 after losing to Greeneville 5-1 earlier in the day. University High battled back from a 5-0 deficit to defeat Richlands (Va.) 8-7. It came less than 24 hours after the Lady Jr. Bucs lost to Science Hill 2-1 in Friday’s nightcap.
In Science Hill’s case, the game against Letcher Central served two purposes. Besides giving the Lady ’Toppers no time to sulk after the Greeneville loss, it allowed them to get playing time for their younger players.
Such was the case with freshman pitcher Cheyenne Smith, who gave up just four hits in six innings to pick up the win.
“Our young players did really well,” Science Hill coach Jerry Higgins said after his team improved to 15-9 on the season. “Cheyenne threw strikes and she walked just one. We volunteered to play that game so we could get some of those younger players out there. We had seven freshman out there and “V” (Vanessa Elliott) is just a sophomore.”
Elliott led the way for Science Hill, going 3-for-3 with a RBI and three runs scored. She also was the leading hitter in the opener, going 2-for-3 against the Greene Devils’ ace Jordan Fortel, who allowed just six hits overall.
“When it comes to facing differences in pitchers, Vanessa is probably the best we’ve got,” Higgins said. “Some others didn’t adjust well at all in the Greeneville game. We didn’t have many good at-bats until the final inning. A pitcher shouldn’t dominate us. The girls have been around long enough.”
Megan Devotie also ended 2-for-3 against Greeneville, but for the Lady ’Toppers, it was a case of too little, too late.
The Lady ’Toppers fell behind 5-0 before getting three hits and getting on the scoreboard in the sixth and final inning.
There was no such delay, however, in game two against the Lady Cougars.
Science Hill took advantage of a couple of errors in the first inning to take an early 2-0 lead. Hannah Devotie scored the first run off an error and Elliott followed by scoring off a wild pitch.
Emma Martindale’s sacrifice fly to left field in the third inning scored Elliott to account for the team’s third run.
Abby Higgins led off the fourth inning with a hard-hit ball to center field. Courtney Morelock followed with a RBI double to score her and a 4-0 Science Hill lead.
The Lady ’Toppers, who defeated Unicoi County to win the NFS Tournament in Erwin a week ago, added their final pair of runs in the fifth inning.
Elliott led off with a double, followed by a RBI single by Smith. She made her way to third before a RBI ground out by Jordan Rush. It was 6-0 before Letcher pushed a pair of runs across in the top of the sixth.
Higgins was glad to see such a team effort, especially with the mix of veteran players and youngsters.
“Emma is a junior and Jordan was the only senior out there at the end,” Higgins said. “It was a good opportunity for our girls to get in there and get a little experience because they’re going to have to play more next year. They put in play well and I was proud of them.”
University High coach Keith Jeffers said his team was embarassed on Friday after giving up 14 runs against William Blount. The Jr. Bucs came back to take Science Hill to the wire, losing 2-1 with bases loaded at the end. Vanessa Elliott struck out nine for the Lady ’Toppers to win a pitcher’s duel with UH’s Haley Faulkner.
It looked like the Jr. Bucs were still suffering from the hangover of that loss against Richlands early on. They were down 5-0 until Ari Ramsaran belted a two-run home run to get them going.
From there, University High rallied to take the 8-7 victory.
“We told them they could either give up or start getting base hits,” Jeffers said. “That’s what they did after that.”
Although the Jr. Bucs were eliminated from the championship round of the tournament by that point, the game showed their grit and determination.
“It was a little frustrating, but they held in there and started getting the base hits,” Jeffers said. “They didn’t give up and as long as people don’t give up, everything is fine. We still have a lot of work to do, but all these games are going to make us better.”