Unaka withstands Cloudland for District 1-A softball crown

Jeff Birchfield • Updated May 9, 2019 at 10:23 PM

KINGSPORT—Unaka added to its rich softball history by winning the District 1-A championship Thursday at Sullivan North High School. Runner-up Cloudland made some history of its own.

The Lady Rangers defeated the Lady ’Landers 5-3 for their third straight district crown. It came after Cloudland won the first game 11-3 for their third win against Unaka this season.

However, Unaka wouldn’t be denied in the nightcap, scoring three runs in the first inning and two in the second.

Unaka will host Greenback in the Region 1-A semifinals, while Cloudland will go on the road to Cosby.

“I knew we would have our hands full,” Unaka coach Kenneth Chambers said. “They’re a lot like us. It was a good game between teams that finished 1-2 and hopefully both teams can win and go on down the road. I was proud of our team. They had to come together as a family to beat a team like that.”

Winning pitcher Sadie Shoun scattered eight hits over seven innings. She aided her cause with an RBI triple in the first inning and a two-run single in the second.

“I had to settle down. I got too nervous out there at first,” Shoun said. “When I got up there to bat, I knew I had to help myself not only with my pitching, but with my batting.”

Unaka (21-21) had Tayla Potter go 2-for-3 with a double and lead-off Madison Pierce scored two runs. The Lady Rangers made plenty of plays in the field to help themselves. Third baseman and tournament MVP Erika Potter caught a pop-up to record the final out.

“It was good to win the MVP, but it’s not as great as the team winning the district and seeing everybody enjoy first place,” Potter said. “We’re trying to build more than a team. We’re building a family and trying to work hard together with always the goal of making it to the state tournament.”

Cloudland (21-16) has achieved some lofty goals in what has been a season of firsts.

The Lady ’Landers hit the 20-win milestone for the first time in program history, tied for the school’s first-ever conference title and advance to the region for the first time. Still, they faced a tough task to win the district. It would have meant beating Unaka for a fourth time this season and the second time in the same night.

Kara Fields suffered the loss, although she helped herself at the plate, getting a triple on the game’s first at-bat. Jasmine Birchfield and Krisi Bare each went 2-for-3.

“We’ve had a great season so far and the girls had a big game early,” Cloudland coach Matt Birchfield said. “The girls knew we had to beat them twice. We came a little short, didn’t get the hits we needed in the second game. They’re really good and it’s hard to beat a team like that four times. But I’m proud of our kids, how they competed. We’re growing and getting there.”

Cloudland 11, Unaka 3

Jasmine Birchfield hit a 3-run home run in the third inning and the Lady ’Landers rolled to force the second championship game.

Cloudland belted out 14 hits. Birchfield was 2-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored. Leah Birchfield had two hits, two RBIs and two runs scored, while Kaylen Fields also had two RBIs.

Kara Fields produced two hits, including a double, and scored two runs, while Heaven Caraway and Gracie Cook each had two hits. Winning pitcher Kenzie Birchfield scored two runs on offense to go along with her six strikeouts in the circle.

Taylor Shanks slammed a solo home run for Unaka, while Lilie Kiser had a triple. Kailey Wilson went four innings in the circle before Sadie Shoun finished the game.