It’s time for the best teams to prove their postseason worth.
District tournament action gets under way today in Elizabethton as the 1-AA softball event is first in line.
Other tournaments kick off Friday or Saturday, and everybody begins the quest to reach the Spring Fling in Murfreesboro — which is scheduled for May 21-24.
Here’s a look at each tournament:
1-AAA at Volunteer — Action begins Friday at Science Hill and Dobyns-Bennett before shifting to Church Hill.
This is the first year the league decided to use double-elimination from start to finish, instead of one-and-done first-round games. Boone head coach Rob Hoover said he believes it is a better format.
“I feel it allows teams to utilize an entire pitching staff,” said Hoover. “And it does not penalize a team that has one bad day.”
Dobyns-Bennett (26-4) is the hottest team, having won 13 of its last 14 games. And the Indians’ pitchers have allowed only 34 runs in those games for an average of 2.4 per contest. They’ve also tossed seven shutouts.
For the season, D-B hurlers have allowed two runs or less 17 times in 30 games with 10 shutouts.
Therefore, despite being seeded second and having lost both games against Science Hill — wasting late leads in both games — the Indians enter as the tournament’s favorite.
However, Science Hill (25-6) certainly has the pitching depth to win it. The Hilltoppers have allowed two runs or less 16 times in 31 games.
While D-B and Science Hill command a lion’s share of the attention, Daniel Boone (17-13) and Sullivan South (19-12) are capable of making plenty of tournament noise.
Darkhorse: Sullivan South.
1-AA at Milligan College’s Anglin Field — Unicoi County and Elizabethton traded punches all season at the top of the Three Rivers Conference with the Blue Devils finally finishing with the slight edge.
Both teams put the bat on the ball, especially the Cyclones. They have reached double digits in runs 11 times in 18 games since returning from a Myrtle Beach, S.C., tournament and have a record of 16-2 in that stretch.
History favors the Blue Devils as they have won the last two district championships. They have also made it to the title game 28 times in the last 29 years — missing only in 2003.
This year’s tournament probably won’t have any easy games. Sullivan East has won 14 of its last 16 games while Happy Valley, Sullivan North and Johnson County have each had their competitive moments this season.
Favorite: Unicoi County.
Darkhorse: Sullivan East.
1-A at Cannon-Gouge Park in Elizabethton — North Greene is clearly the kingpin here. The Huskies rolled all the way to the state tournament last year, and appear to have the horses to make another run at it this season.
University High started the year strong before fading while Unaka played better once April arrived.
Favorite: North Greene.
1-AAA at Tennessee High’s field in Bristol — Daniel Boone enters on a two-game losing streak, which is news because the Lady Trailblazers have not lost two in a row perhaps as far back as the 2009 season.
The other side of the story is the losses came against Class AA powerhouse Unicoi County, and Boone has won 49 of its last 50 games in the Big Eight Conference.
Also, Boone has won four straight district championships with a record of 16-0 in that span.
However, the Lady Trailblazers should expect plenty of scrap from Science Hill, David Crockett and Volunteer. And with home-field advantage, Tennessee High can’t completely be counted out of the picture.
Favorite: Daniel Boone.
Darkhorse: David Crockett.
1-AA at Elizabethton’s field — Unicoi County proved to be the dominant team in this league, and will carry a 12-game winning streak into the district.
The Lady Blue Devils also have history on their side, having won 17 of the last 18 district championships. The only year they didn’t win in that stretch was 2010, when the Lady Cyclones claimed the title.
Elizabethton certainly has the hitters to give Unicoi a serious challenge, not to mention home-field advantage. Defense will be a key toward the Lady Cyclones’ success in this event.
Johnson County has been playing better softball of late, and could make a little noise.
Favorite: Unicoi County.
Darkhorse: Johnson County.
1-A at ETSU’s Basler Field — University High has been solid throughout the season, and this is the Lady Junior Bucs’ time of the year.
They are the defending tournament champions, and have finished first or second nine times in the last 11 years. They won four titles in that stretch.
However, Unaka has been good in the district also. The Lady Rangers have won seven of the last 11 championships.
Favorite: University High.
1-AAA at Indian-Highland Park — Dobyns-Bennett rolled to the regular season title, having outscored league opponents 38-3 with one game remaining against winless Volunteer.
The Indians haven’t lost to anyone in the area, so it will take a giant effort to keep them from powering their way to the championship.
Science Hill appears to be the only team with an outside shot, and the Hilltoppers lost 5-1 to the Tribe.
Individual tournaments are next on the schedule with the 1-A/AA being held Thursday and Friday in Elizabethton.
The 1-AAA tournament begins Monday and will be held at Dobyns-Bennett’s tennis courts in Kingsport.
Team tennis action is scheduled for next week, and will be at the regional level.
The Class A-AA North Subsectional track meet is scheduled for Tuesday at Greeneville. The sectional meet is scheduled for May 14 at Christian Academy of Knoxville.
In Class AAA, the sectional is scheduled for May 11 at Hardin Valley Academy.