MURFREESBORO — Perhaps Meigs County wasn't too familiar with Unicoi County's Tiffany Laughren.
The Lady Blue Devils' sophomore slugger extended her state record, clubbing two solo home runs and lifting her team to a 2-1 win in the opening round of the Class AA state softball tournament Tuesday night at Starplex Field.
Unicoi improved to 36-5 and moved into today's winners' bracket semifinals against perennial power Goodpasture Christian at 5 p.m. (EDT). Goodpasture (22-8) advanced with a 4-3 win over Lexington in 10 innings, a game that went to the international tiebreaker rule.
Laughren, who already had the state record with 20 homers in a season coming into the tournament, launched a blast over the right field fence in her first state tournament at-bat. In her next at-bat, she crushed one over the left field fence — giving her 22 on the season.
Also, Laughren already tied the all-time record for homers in a single state tournament.
In her third at-bat, she was intentionally walked.
“She's only going to get so many pitches,” said Unicoi head coach Grady Lingerfelt. “But they don't have to be perfect for her to hit one out.”
Said Laughren, “I hope I get good pitches, but I have been walked a lot. But people don't know me down here because we hadn't played yet.”
Laughren's homers also moved Unicoi County's state record to 59.
Laughren also came to the circle for the seventh inning to record the save in relief of Kaylee Nicholson, who pitched a sharp six innings. Laughren said she got a little nervous for the relief appearance, but shook it off.
“I just tried to relax,” she said.
Nicholson set up Laughren's relief effort by keeping Meigs' bats quiet. She allowed just five hits and one walk. She also struck out eight batters.
Nicholson worked out of a big jam in the fifth inning. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with two outs, but Nicholson made a nice pitch to strike out Morgan Boggess to end the threat.
“Kaylee did a wonderful job,” said Lingerfelt. “She came into the game not nervous for some reason.”
Unicoi led 2-0 heading into the top of the sixth inning, but allowed an unearned run to score. A dropped fly ball allowed Chloe Grayson to reach second base leading off the inning. She eventually scored on a two-out single by Angel Davis.
Once again, Nicholson buckled down and got out of the jam with a strikeout.
Then Lingerfelt made the pitching change.
“It could have backfired, but I wanted (Meigs) to see something different,” said Lingerfelt.
Unicoi's only two baserunners heading into the bottom of the sixth inning were Laughren's homers. Grayson Goddard and Chelsey Gardner singled to start the sixth, but Cheyenne Delffs popped into a double play. Laughren was intentionally walked, and Taylor Wright grounded out.
Madison Hampton finished with two hits for Meigs County.