KINGSPORT — Jaclyn Jenkins set the perfect example of aiding one’s own cause on Sunday afternoon at the Eastman Invitational softball tournament.
Daniel Boone’s talented freshman pitcher hit a grand slam in the third inning to lift the Lady Trailblazers to a 5-3 victory over Maryville in the third-place game. Along with a 2-for-3 effort at the plate, she scattered eight hits over six innings in the pitching circle to improve to 7-0 on the season.
Still, the grand slam was a bit unexpected.
“It really wasn’t my pitch,” Jenkins said. “I really hate outside pitches, but I just went with it.”
Although Boone failed to repeat its 2012 Eastman championship, it was the highest finish of any local team. Knox Halls defeated Seymour 4-2 in the title game, while Volunteer was the next highest local finisher (sixth) after losing to Macon-East (Ala.) 5-2 in the fifth-place game.
Boone defeated Volunteer 6-3 in its Sunday opener and then lost to Seymour 3-1 in the semfinals. Still, head coach Rick Wagner felt it was a productive weekend after his team improved to 19-3 on the season.
“It was a good weekend altogether,” Wagner said. “We faced good pitching, some good teams. We didn’t play great against Seymour, but up until the last inning we had a chance. If you keep it within a couple of runs, you have a shot. Beating Maryville, I know we beat a good team.”
Maryville struck first as Caylan Arnold sent a solo shot over the left field fence for a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
Jenkins and the Lady ’Blazers answered in a big way the next inning.
Meredith Good and Allison Littleton both singled, followed by Kayla Sanders’ bunt to load the bases. It was followed by Jenkins driving the ball well over the left center field fence.
An inning later, McKenzi Ferguson added a solo shot over left field for a 5-1 Daniel Boone lead.
“It was right down the middle,” said Ferguson, who ended 2-for-3 at the plate. “When a pitcher makes a mistake like that, you have to take it.”
Maryville (11-8) came back with a two-run home run by Haley Hilliard in the fifth inning. The Lady Rebels had the tying run on base and the winning run at the plate with one out in the final inning, but Jenkins rose to the challenge. She served up a strikeout and a 1-3 ground out to end the game.
“Jaclyn gave up a couple of hard hits, but she’s the type it’s not going to bother her,” Wagner said. “She’s going to bounce back. At the plate, she just finds a way to put it in play no matter how fast the pitcher is. That’s what you’ve got to do.”
It was a nice recovery for the Lady ’Blazers who had seven timely hits after getting just three hits against Seymour pitcher Carlie Lewis in the previous game. Their only run came in the first inning. Sanders walked and moved to third after a stolen base and an errant throw by the catcher. Jenkins hit a sacrifice fly to score her for a 1-0 Boone lead.
The Lady Eagles had three singles and a sacrifice fly of their own to take a 2-1 lead in the second inning. They added a run in the fourth inning for the final margin.
It’s a big week for the Lady ’Blazers coming up, including a key Big Eight Conference game at Science Hill scheduled for Friday. Wagner is happy to have Jenkins wearing jersey No. 27 for the Boone in the league showdown.
“What amazes me is how she can go opposite,” Wagner said. “She has two or three home runs oppositee field this year. You don’t see a lot of people be able to do that in softball with that power. They can hit that way, but she does it with power. I’m glad she’s on our team.”