ELIZABETHTON — Hitters were in command Tuesday, and Unicoi County got more done at the plate.
The Lady Blue Devils outscored Elizabethton 12-7 in a softball battle for first place in the Three Rivers Conference at the Lady Cyclones’ field.
Unicoi improved to 6-0 in league play and 19-5 overall while Elizabethton (6-1, 15-7) lost its first conference contest.
Lady Blue Devils head coach Grady Lingerfelt said the road win was important.
“It will be just as tough at home, but it’s nice to win on the road,” said Lingerfelt, whose team plays host to Elizabethton next week.
Unicoi twice built seven-run leads, but the game wasn’t settled until Emily Dugger’s bases-loaded groundout in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Cyclones didn’t use their No. 1 pitcher, Lindsay Cunningham. Click said the reason was “to try different stuff.”
“It was just another game, and we will get to see Unicoi County again,” said Click. “I’m very proud of the kids with the situation we had. They did well at bat, but we struggled in the field.”
Both teams struggled not only with defense, but also running the bases. They combined for six errors, at least four baserunning mistakes, and several poor decisions on throwing to bases.
“You’re always concerned about mental mistakes, and I think we made some,” said Lingerfelt.
After Elizabethton couldn’t cash in on a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the first inning, the Lady Blue Devils struck for five runs in the top of the second. They were aided by three walks and three Elizabethton errors, and totaled only two hits.
Chelsey Gardner got things going with a rolling single up the middle to plate two runs. Cheyenne Delffs added an RBI single, and another run scored on an error. Taylor Wright’s RBI groundout finished the scoring.
Unicoi tacked on two runs in the third inning, getting an RBI groundout from Gardner and a smoking RBI single from Tiffany Laughren off the foot of Lady Cyclones’ third baseman Danielle Loving.
“We were seeing the pitches pretty good,” said Laughren. “We saw a fast pitcher yesterday, so we had to adjust today.”
However, Elizabethton didn’t go away. The Lady Cyclones struck for three straight hits in the bottom of the third inning to make it 7-1. Then Loving crushed a ball over the center field fence for a three-run bomb to close Elizabethton within three runs.
The Lady Cyclones made it 7-5 on Ashleigh Dykes’ RBI bloop single to right field in the fourth inning.
However, the Lady Blue Devils stepped on the gas again. Laughren drove in a run with a single, and Wright followed with her 11th homer of the season — a two-run shot to push Unicoi out to an 11-5 advantage in the fifth inning.
Gardner tripled in the sixth inning, and Delffs drove her in to make it 12-5.
DeMoss answered with a home run to center field in the bottom of the seventh, and Madison Weaver drove in a run with a single. The Cyclones loaded the bases, but Laughren pitched out of the jam. The sophomore said Unicoi has more work to do.
“We have to keep it up if we want the title,” said Laughren.
Nicholson went the first four innings in the circle for the Lady Blue Devils, allowing seven hits and five runs. She earned the win, and Laughren closed it out with three innings of relief.
Laughren was aided by two pickoffs from catcher Ashley Starnes, who nailed a runner off first in the fifth and third in the sixth.
Unicoi got three hits each from Delffs and Laughren. Each player also drove in two runs.
Gardner added two hits and three RBIs while Wright finished with three RBIs. Starnes totaled two hits, and Grayson Goddard drew three walks from the No. 9 spot in the order and scored two runs.
Elizabethton got four hits from Dykes while Loving had three hits and three RBIs. DeMoss had two hits and two RBIs. The middle of Elizabethton’s lineup went 9 for 11 with six RBIs and five runs scored.
Emily Kiser took the loss, allowing 10 runs, seven earned, in five innings. She walked eight batters and struck out one.