ERWIN — Lady Blue Thunder filled the Erwin skyline Tuesday, tying state records and ending with a walk-off masterpiece.
Taylor Wright crushed a three-run homer over the right field fence, giving Unicoi County a 6-3 victory over Daniel Boone at Lady Devils Diamond.
It was the second straight win for Class AA Unicoi County (30-5) over Class AAA Daniel Boone (31-6) in two days. The Lady Blue Devils won 8-1 in Gray on Monday, and earned the No. 1 spot in the final Northeast Tennessee rankings of the regular season.
In the process of Tuesday’s win, sophomore Tiffany Laughren tied the state record for home runs with her 19th blast of the season, a two-run mash to center field that gave Unicoi a 3-2 lead over Daniel Boone in the bottom of the fifth inning. It was fitting for Laughren to hit the blast against Boone as the Lady Trailblazers’ Natalie Sheffey set the state mark last season.
“I just think Tiffany is an awesome hitter,” said Lingerfelt. “Her and Taylor are both hitting over .500.”
Laughren stands in a tie for seventh place on the all-time national list — five away from second place, but 16 behind the record.
Unicoi’s Cheyenne Delffs hit a solo homer in the first inning, so Wright’s launch tied the state team record for homers in a season. It was Unicoi’s 50th, tying Boone’s mark set last season. That’s good enough for fourth place on the all-time national list.
It was Wright’s 16th homer of the season.
“I kind of felt like I was going to hit it hard,” said Wright, who is a sophomore. “I knew the team needed me to hit it.”
With runners on second and third and only needing a sacrifice fly to plate the winning run, Wright went with the pitch for the opposite-field homer.
“I kind of knew she would throw it outside because that’s how she had been pitching me, and I hadn’t hit it all night,” said Wright.
Unicoi head coach Grady Lingerfelt said this team is different from some other Lady Blue Devils teams.
“We have more of a power game,” said Lingerfelt. “You saw many times in other years where we tried to squeeze or bunt to try to get something going.”
Lingerfelt said the players aren’t worried about setting home run records, rather just going about their business and trying to win.
“We’ve got confidence right now we can play with people,” he said. “You can lose at any time, but it can also be a good game with good teams when you have a team like this.”
Unicoi needed Wright’s heroics because of Kaylin Conkin’s dramatic hit. The Boone freshman sent one soaring over the centerfield fence with two outs and nobody on in the top of the seventh inning to tie the score at 3-3.
“If you make a mistake, she has the raw power to make you pay for it,” said Boone assistant coach Bill Wagner.
Boone earlier got a homer from another freshman, Jacklyn Jenkins. The left-handed hitter ripped one down the left field line, and it appeared to be headed for foul territory. However, the ball hit the fair pole for a two-run homer and a 2-1 Boone lead.
Laughren got the win in the circle, going the distance. She allowed six hits and three runs with one walk and two strikeouts — taking advantage of superb defense behind her.
In fact, both teams were excellent in the field as there were no errors in the contest.
Laughren finished with two hits, two RBIs, and two runs scored. Delffs racked up three hits and two runs.
Conkin finished with two hits for Daniel Boone, which must regroup in time for the District 1-AAA tournament that begins Saturday in Bristol.
“We talked about it after the game was over,” said Wagner. “The girls were extremely positive. They saw progress from yesterday to today. I feel confident we will be ready.”
McKenzi Ferguson took the loss in the circle, but held up well in her first extended appearance in three weeks because of a knee injury. She gave up seven hits to the top four hitters in Unicoi’s lineup, but held the rest to 1 for 11.
“We knew it was a hot fire against Unicoi, but we threw her in there,” said Wagner. “She only made three really bad pitches, and guess what happened to those three pitches.”