MURFREESBORO — Grady Lingerfelt faces one tough decision he really hasn’t had to deal with very much in previous trips to the state softball tournament.
The Unicoi County head coach will have to decide whether to start Tiffany Laughren or Kaylee Nicholson in the circle for today’s Class AA contest against Meigs County at the Murfreesboro Sports Complex.
Game time is scheduled for approximately 7 p.m. It will begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Lexington-Goodpasture contest.
Lingerfelt has switched the two pitchers during the course of games often this season, including the 6-5 sectional win over Union County on Thursday.
“I’ve never done that before this year,” said Lingerfelt. “I think they are about equal. They each have a few things the other one doesn’t have. We may mix and match. It works.”
Certainly it didn’t hinder Unicoi County’s progress toward the state tournament. The Lady Blue Devils (35-5) are in the event for the 10th time in the last 16 years. They won Class AA state titles in 2002 and 2009, and finished third in 2008 and 2011.
Home runs have been the big story for the Lady Blue Devils. They’ve hit 57 as a team, shattering the state record of 50 set by Daniel Boone last season. Unicoi is third on the all-time national list.
Also, Tiffany Laughren holds the state individual record with 20 home runs. She broke the mark set by Daniel Boone’s Natalie Sheffey with a blast in the 6-5 sectional win over Union County. Laughren is currently tied for sixth on the all-time national list.
Laughren’s teammate, Taylor Wright, is also within shouting distance of the record with 17 homers on the season.
As for Meigs County, it has a record of 23-11 this year. The Lady Tigers lost 8 of 12 in the middle of the year, but rebounded with a strong finish to reach the state tournament.
Like Unicoi County, the Lady Tigers have two pitchers. Morgan Boggess tossed a four-hit shutout in the 2-0 win over Upperman in the sectional while striking out eight. Chloe Grayson is Meigs’ other main pitcher.
Boggess homered in the district championship game while Grayson had an RBI in the win over Upperman.
Lingerfelt said one of the keys against Meigs will be for Unicoi to just play its game.
“We need to play it like any other game,” said Lingerfelt. “We just have to line up and play, not play too high and try to keep an even keel. A lot of people put pressure on themselves because they are in the state tournament. I don’t think we will do that.”
Many of Unicoi’s players were around when the Blue Devils made their last trip, back in 2011. They went 2-2 that year, beating Chester County and Corryton Gibbs before losing to Goodpasture and Lexington.
“I don’t know where we stand in this tournament, but I know we’ve played some awfully good Class AAA schools,” said Lingerfelt, who mentioned Knox Halls, Seymour, Daniel Boone and Cookeville. “We’ve played some pretty good teams.”