ERWIN — In a lineup heavy with newcomers, a pair of veterans pulled the Science Hill softball team through on Monday evening.
Senior pitcher Emma Martindale and junior hurler Vanessa Elliott combined to scatter eight hits as the Lady ’Toppers held on for a 5-4 win over Unicoi County in the season-opener for both perennial powers.
Martindale starred in every phase of the game. She picked the win as starting pitcher, went 2-for-4 with a RBI at the plate and recorded two of the last three outs in the field.
She was excited afterwards to win at the Lady Devils Diamond, where she recalled coming in as a freshman and losing by 10 runs.
“We knew this game would be a tough game,” she said. “It’s always good beating Unicoi. We’re a really young team, but I’m proud of how our girls stepped up. It’s hard coming into this atmosphere and not choking. There were opportunities where we could have choked, but we pulled out of them.”
Elliott certainly had her share of opportunities to choke, especially after Unicoi County scored three runs in the sixth inning to leave her clinging to a one-run lead.
Elliott stayed composed, however, even when the Lady Devils had the go-ahead run on base in the sixth. An inning later, she retired three straight batters to record the save.
“We had quite a bit of a lead and then things happened,” Elliott said. “But we hung in there as a team. We stayed together and stayed positive. We work well as a team and we have great chemistry. I think it’s going to be a great year.”
Lead-off batter Megan Guinn and Megan Maupin both went 2-for-4 at the plate for the Lady ’Toppers.
Maupin scored the game’s first run on a Unicoi error, and Cheyenne Smith ripped an RBI single for a 2-0 lead in the top of the second.
The Lady Devils’ Brooke Strother tagged Martindale for a solo home run in the bottom of the inning, but Science Hill pushed the lead to 4-1 in the third on back-to-back RBIs by Martindale and Maupin.
Smith scored Science Hill’s final run in the fourth inning on a RBI ground out by Julie Wyse. Smith had initially reached base on one of five errors by the Lady Devils.
“We weren’t sharp at all,” Unicoi County coach Grady Lingerfelt said. “We made uncharacteristic errors. We just made a lot of mistakes. We still battled and got back in it. If we just hadn’t made those mistakes, we would have been OK.”
The struggles didn’t help senior pitcher Tiffany Laughren, who was credited with the loss after giving up eight hits and four walks. On the offensive end, Laughren reached base four times, once with a single and the other three times with walks.
Unicoi’s Grayson Goddard finished 2-for-4 at the plate, including a two-run double in the sixth. Also for the Lady Devils’ Cassie Foster ended 2-for-3 and Haley Webb added a RBI single.
Science Hill coach Jerry Higgins wasn’t the least bit surprised to see the Lady Devils’ rally.
“Erwin, for the last 30 years, at some point in the game, they’re going to hit it” Higgins said. “If you can get through that wave and still have the lead, you have a chance. That’s what happened. They got within one, we got that out and then got them out 1-2-3 in the seventh. It was a super team effort”
It was the second time in the last three seasons, Science Hill has opened the season with a win at Unicoi County. Like his players, Higgins relished the victory, especially with so many newcomers in the starting lineup.
“If you look at our roster, you probably don’t recognize many names,” Higgins said. “Emma and Vanessa are the only ones who returned from last year. Like Emma said, the young girls, the new girls, they played like they had been playing all season.”comments powered by Disqus