By Rick Sheek
MOUNTAIN CITY — The third seed for the upcoming District 1-AA softball tournament was on the line.
Happy Valley’s girls squandered an eight-run lead, but the Lady Warriors still had their ace-in-the-hole in Brittany Morefield. Morefield batted 3 for 4 with a home run and two RBIs, while also going the distance on the mound, in Tuesday’s 9-8 victory over Johnson County at Bob Kirsey Field.
“They wouldn’t stop, and we just kept on making the plays and making the plays,” Morefield said. “We had a few errors, and we didn’t let that get to us. We just kept fighting.”
The Warriors (17-16) held a 9-6 advantage going into the bottom of the seventh inning. Ashley Arnold led off with a single and with one out Eden Smith unleashed a two-run homer.
With two out, Cindi Edington and Miranda Payne had reached base with singles.
Liza Watson ripped a hard shot to left field, which Kaylee Street gloved to end the affair.
“They did a good job,” Happy Valley coach Mike Dorsey said of his players. “They did enough to win. I think they came out like they won the game, and then decided that they had it won and quit.
“Give them credit, they never stopped. They wanted third place as bad as we did, at first. We didn’t do it too good there toward the end.”
The Warriors face Sullivan North on Thursday at 5 p.m. in Bluff City, with Elizabethton awaiting in the wings.
“That was a very important game for us,” Morefield said.
“It was huge, really,” Dorsey said.
The Longhorns (13-18) meet host Sullivan East at 6:30, with regular-season champion Unicoi County the possible next opponent.
“We’re in the postseason now, so everything that we’ve done to this point is now wiped away,” Johnson County coach Dana Smith said. “You just pick up and you play in the district tournament, and hope that when it’s all over you earn a spot to go onto the region.”
Morefield scattered 11 hits and yielded four earned runs. She struck out five with no walks.
The Warriors surged to a 2-0 lead in the first. Brooke Simmons delivered a run-scoring triple and Kiara Coffey following with a run-scoring single.
Smith’s run-scoring double in the bottom half cut the deficit to one.
With one out in the second, Morefield delivered her solo shot. It was her third home run of the spring.
“I wasn’t really going up there trying to hit a home run,” Morefield said. “I was just going up there swinging, just to be swinging. If I got a home run that was fine, but I was just trying to help my team – just to get on base.”
A four-base error plated Kaitlin Campbell to make it 4-1.
The third saw Hannah Blevins and Morefield rap run-scoring singles. It was 6-1 after Happy Valley left the bases juiced.
“To play that game again, it would probably be the same way,” Smith said. “The only difference is we can’t spot runs early, and that’s all we did. We spotted runs way too early, with some errors and some things that happened to us.
“You can’t win like that, and you just have to keep going and keep playing.”
The Warriors built that 9-1 advantage in the fourth. A runner crossed on a wild pitch, Allison Williams drove in a run and Blevins tagged a sacrifice fly.
Johnson County’s Haley Miller answered with a run-scoring single. Payne’s run-scoring triple pulled the Longhorns within 9-3.
Hollie Harrison bunted in a score in the fifth. Another runner came in on and error and it was 9-5.
Hope Nelson smacked a run-scoring double in the sixth, trimming the deficit to 9-6.
“It’s normal for them to do things like that, so I expected it,” Smith said of her players. “I expected it sooner, actually, for them to come on hitting it a little bit earlier. They were a little off-kilter the first two innings, and I don’t know if it was because of senior night or not.”
Arnold and Payne each batted 3 for 4. Smith was 2 for 3.
Edington hurled four innings for the Longhorns. She was roughed up for 10 hits, allowed three earned runs and fanned four with two walks, a wild pitch and hit batter.
Nelson, in three innings, was touched for two hits. She struck out two.
For Happy Valley, Coffey went 3 for 3. Simmons was 3 for 4.
“I’m proud of them,” Dorsey said. “They did what they had to do, and they got it done. Have been all year, up and down, up and down and turn it on when you want to.”
Happy Valley 222 300 0 — 9 12 4
Johnson Co. 100 221 2 — 8 11 4
Morefield and Coffey. Edington, Nelson (5) and Watson. W—Morefield. L—Edington. HRs—Happy Valley: Morefield; Johnson County: Smith.