Johnson City Press Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sports Douglas Fritz High schools

Softball teams hope Eastman will be boost

March 31st, 2014 8:57 pm by Douglas Fritz

Softball teams hope Eastman will be boost

If the weather will cooperate, softball teams like Daniel Boone might be able to get a better idea where they stand in the overall scheme of things.

With the Kingsport-Eastman Invitational usually being a sharpening point for area teams, this year’s event will more likely be a feeling-out process because weather has wiped out some early-season games.

“This year it will be one of those where you just want to come out of it as a better team,” said Lady Trailblazers coach Rick Wagner. “Usually we have more games under our belts by the time we get to the Eastman. I don’t know where we stand honestly. I feel good with what we have: two quality pitchers, and we swing the bats well when we get games. When we lay off for a week, we struggle like everybody else.”

Boone won’t get a chance to ease into the tournament. Even though Thursday’s games are just extra opportunities to play and don’t count toward pool play, the Lady ’Blazers get Unicoi County (4-1) at 5 p.m. and Grainger (10-1) at 8. Both contests are at Domtar Park.

Boone is 9-4 on the season, but two of the losses came against defending Class AAA state champion Smyrna. The Lady Trailblazers lost 8-6 in the Commando Classic in Hendersonville earlier in the season, and were hammered 11-0 by Smyrna in the Lady Warrior Classic on Saturday.

“You can’t give them anything, and we gave them two runs right off the bat,” said Wagner.

Boone is 3-1 in the Three Rivers Conference with the loss coming against Volunteer and ace pitcher Morgan Marshall in a 1-0 decision.

“After the game, during one interview they were trying to make it about us not being able to hit as good as in the past,” said Wagner. “I said you need to change that around. This girl is the real deal. We didn’t get close.”

Wagner said he likes what he has in the circle also. McKenzi Ferguson and Jaclyn Jenkins form quite a 1-2 punch.

“McKenzi has pitched well, and Jaclyn just hasn’t gotten the innings in,” said Wagner.

At the plate, Boone has gotten boosts from Kaylin Conkin, a sophomore who leads the team in RBIs. Also swinging the bat well have been Jenkins and leadoff hitter Ali Littleton.

Wagner said he expects Haley Wagner to heat up soon.

“We need to get her untracked,” said Wagner. “She’s a competitor. It’s going to happen, even if she has to will it to happen.”

Overall, Wagner said his postseason-focused team has a lot of potential.

“Our mindset the past few years has changed,” said Wagner. “We realize what it’s all about is postseason play. If we have a good year in the conference, great. But we want to be playing our best ball when the first weekend of May arrives.

“I’m not sure where we are, but I like our team. We’ve got good players in positions where we want them to be. I think we can be good at the end.”

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Follow Douglas Fritz on Twitter @FritzBlitzzz.

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Baseball games of the week: (Today) Sullivan South at Elizabethton, (Wednesday) Sullivan South at Science Hill, Sullivan East at Unicoi County, (Monday) Daniel Boone at David Crockett, Elizabethton at Unicoi County, Sullivan East at Happy Valley.

Elizabethton needs a good week if the Cyclones are going to get back in the Three Rivers Conference title conversation. ...

Daniel Boone returns from Myrtle Beach, S.C., and David Crockett returns from Maryville and each finds its biggest rival awaiting. ...

Three Rivers front-runner Sullivan East has a week of big challenges. The Patriots battled Sullivan South on Monday before facing the Blue Devils, rival Tennessee High on Thursday, and then back to the league to meet the Warriors after the weekend.

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Dobyns-Bennett is the clear-cut No. 1 as the Indians’ only setback was actually just a 2-2 tie in a Mt. Juliet tournament.

Sullivan East made a bid to move all the way to the No. 2 spot by beating Unicoi County 1-0, but Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Abingdon, Va., kept them out of that mix — and also kept the Patriots behind Science Hill.

Here is this week’s baseball Prep Top 10:

Team W-L Prv

1. Dobyns-Bennett 11-0 1

2. Unicoi County 9-1 2

3. Science Hill 6-4 3

4. Sullivan East 9-2 5

5. Sullivan South 8-5 4

6. Daniel Boone 6-2 6

7. North Greene 8-2 9

8. Happy Valley 7-4 8

9. David Crockett 5-4 10

10. Elizabethton 5-9 7

(tie) Greeneville 5-4 10

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Prep signings: Elizabethton’s Zeke Clark has chosen his college path.

The Cyclones’ senior point guard will sign April 8 with Walters State Community College in the hopes of parlaying it into a future Division I deal. Clark averaged over 20 points per game this season for the Cyclones.

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Softball games of the week: (Today) Dobyns-Bennett at Daniel Boone, Elizabethton at Happy Valley; (Thursday-Sunday) Eastman Invitational at Kingsport; (Monday) Elizabethton at Science Hill, Unicoi County at Happy Valley.

Daniel Boone gets a league challenge before diving into the Eastman event. And the Lady Trailblazers get a challenge right off the bat Thursday when they play Unicoi County at 5 p.m. and Grainger at 8 p.m.

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It’s pretty much guess time for the softball rankings. Because of the wintry spring, teams just haven’t played enough games to get into a groove and show what they have.

The Eastman tournament could help resolve that problem, but the weather forecast is a little iffy for the weekend.

Team W-L Prv

1. Unicoi County 4-1 1

2. Daniel Boone 9-4 2

3. Volunteer 8-4 3

4. Elizabethton 5-0 4

5. Greeneville 3-1 6

6. Science Hill 8-5 5

7. University High 10-2 7

8. Happy Valley 7-1 8

9. Sullivan East 7-6 10

10. David Crockett 5-9 nr

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