It took a mercy-rule slap in the face to awaken University High, and nobody was more ready to go than Tanner Horton.
After North Greene delivered an 11-1 six-inning beatdown in the championship round Friday at ETSU's Basler Field, the Lady Junior Bucs responded with a 6-0 win in the if-necessary game behind the hitting and pitching of their sophomore standout — giving UH the District 1-A softball championship.
“It's always important to win the district and keep going from there,” said UH head coach Keith Jeffers. “We hope to see North Greene again next Wednesday.”
The Lady Junior Bucs (23-14) will play host to Washburn in Monday's regional semifinal while North Greene (18-16) will travel to play Cosby.
Horton was simply dominant throughout the game. She went 4 for 4, drove in a run, and scored two runs.
“I was really focused,” said Horton. “And I also got some good pitches that were easy to hit.”
In the circle — after North Greene rang up 12 hits in the opener — Horton silenced the Lady Huskies' bats with a tidy three-hitter. She walked one and struck out 10.
“That was probably the best game I've pitched,” said Horton. “At first I was a little nervous because I hadn't been pitching that well. But I was really excited, and I wanted to do good and help our team.”
Only one North Greene runner reached second base in the game.
“Tanner did awesome,” said Jeffers. “She hit her spots, she had good speed, and her off-speed pitches were working. She did all anybody could ask.”
Horton said she had good movement with her pitches, especially her screwball.
UH quickly created an edge in the nightcap. Barrett Wherry and Horton led off the game with singles, and eventually advanced to second and third on a wild pitch.
Taylor Treadway then hit a short fly ball to right field, but Horton raced home anyway. The throw to the plate got away, and a hustling Belle Bright scored all the way from second base to give the Lady Junior Bucs a 2-0 lead.
UH wasted some chances to score with some wacky baserunning in the second and third innings, but finally broke the game open in the fifth inning — where their aggressive style on the bases actually paid off.
Horton smacked an RBI single, and eventually scored from third base when North Greene tried to make a play on a runner who drifted away from first base.
Treadway doubled with two outs, stole third, and scored on the catcher's throwing error to make it 5-0.
In the seventh inning, UH added an insurance run on Lexi Crouthers' bases-loaded walk.
North Greene coach Renee Light said her girls likely ran out of gas.
“We played two tough games yesterday, and I feel awesome about our performance in the first game tonight,” said Light. “But in the second game, bodies were tired and arms were worn out.”
North Greene 11, University High 1
It was all Huskies as they pounded out 12 hits.
Amethist Crawford led the way with three hits and two runs batted in. Talley Bailey added two hits and two RBIs while Shania Harmon also totaled two RBIs.
Jessie Donihue got the win in the circle, going the distance with no walks and no strikeouts.
UH had just four hits, two by Sarah Higginbotham. Haley Faulkner took the loss in the circle, giving up 11 runs, seven earned. She walked four and struck out 10.