One break was all Greeneville needed.
Lorena Leon punched a run across the plate with an RBI double in the top of the seventh inning and the Lady Devils outlasted Unaka, 1-0, in a defensive duel Monday at Ronnie Hicks Field.
A walk to Hope Oltinger was followed by a sacrifice bunt, setting up Leon, who placed a shallow hit into left field. A hop and miss by the Lady Ranger defender allowed the ball to roll and the run crossed.
“We made the plays we needed to when we needed to. Unfortunately, we had the walk that led off the inning, they bunted her over and the one that got by the outfield was the one that scored,” said Unaka coach Carrie Stevens, whose team was stellar defensively to that point. “It was a good game. I feel like if we can play like this, we’re going to go pretty far.”
Greeneville’s freshman ace Jordan Fortel improved to 14-0 on the season with a two-hit shutout, striking out nine.
“Really, as a freshman, you don’t see many that can hit spots like she does and throw it like she does,” said Greeneville coach Bob Fortel. “It’s good for us. It keeps our defense in the ball game because she doesn’t waste a lot of time.”
The Lady Rangers’ Leslie Colbaugh didn’t have the strikeout numbers as Fortel, but set the defense up with some good opportunities in a five-hit outing from the circle.
“We just couldn’t get the bats going to put hits together,” Stevens said. “We had a few runners, but I’m proud of our defense. We made some great defensive plays. Brandi (Ensor) made two plays that I’ve been waiting on all season.
“I was proud of our defense today, I just wish we could’ve gotten the bat around a little better. They’re a good team. We’re not going to see a team that good unless we go to sub-state.”
Greeneville had the first scoring opportunity in the second inning with a walk to Sarah Luttrell and single from Chandler Christopher, but Unaka’s defense shut the door.
On the opposite end of the frame, Colbaugh delivered a one-out hit and Ensor walked to place two aboard for the Lady Rangers. A passed ball advanced the runners to second and third, but Fortel got out of the inning with consecutive strikeouts.
Each team left a runner stranded in the third, and Unaka had one aboard in the fourth.
The Lady Devils had another at a run in the sixth inning with two outs on the board when Fortel reached on an error and Luttrell singled. Ensor, who had delivered an 8-3 double play to open the inning, capped the stanza with a key catch to keep it scoreless.
Unaka had another shot in the sixth with two outs on the board when Madison Weaver reached on an infield error. Colbaugh, who reached three times in the game (one single), walked for the second time to set up Ensor, but a groundout continued the defensive standstill.
Greeneville got a final shot in the seventh and capitalized.
“We preach fundamentals and we got the runner on and was able to bunt her over,” said coach Fortel. “That’s the key right there. If we couldn’t get a bunt down, we wouldn’t be where we were right there and had that opportunity. Little things take care of ball games a lot of times.”
Unaka popped out twice and struck out to end the game.
“We just couldn’t get it over their head,” said Stevens. “Their outfield was playing so shallow, if we had got a good hit we would’ve been running for days. We couldn’t get a good level swing on the ball.”
Leslie Colbaugh and Alicia Colbaugh had Unaka’s two hits on the game, while five scattered hits for the Devils.
Greeneville 000 000 1 — 1 5 1
Unaka 000 000 0 — 0 2 2
Fortel and Lowery. Colbaugh and Matheson. W—Fortel. L—Colbaugh. 2B—Greeneville, Leon.