By Gene Renfro
BLUFF CITY — Better late than never.
That’s how the Happy Valley offense responded Friday against Elizabethton in the second day of the District 1-AA softball tournament as the Lady Warriors moved into the winners’ bracket final with an 8-2 victory over the Lady Cyclones.
Earlier in the day, Unicoi County, the top seed, put away Sullivan East 5-2 while Johnson County ended Sullivan North’s season with a 15-2 outcome.
With the outcomes from Friday, Happy Valley will take on Unicoi County in the winners’ bracket final Monday at 6:30 p.m. Sullivan East and Johnson County start Monday with a losers’ bracket game at 5 p.m. Elizabethton will take on the survivor of the Johnson County and Sullivan East game on Tuesday at 5 p.m. before the losers’ bracket final at 6:30 that evening. The championship game will be Wednesday.
The Lady Warriors, the No. 3 seed, made the most of a pair of Elizabethton errors and walks in the top of the sixth to break a 2-2 tie.
Happy Valley took the lead for good on Jessa Dugger’s single to Reazyn DeMoss at short. Kiara Coffey was at second after two walks and shielded DeMoss from the ball. After a funny hop the ball ended up in center field and Coffey scored. A strikeout and walk brought Kaitlin Campbell back up where she delivered a two-run single to left. Another error led to a Lady Warrior run before Brooke Simmons two-run single to right center provided insurance scores.
Elizabethton had three chances with the bases loaded in the opening inning to take the lead. Three straight singles started the game for the second-seeded Lady Cyclones. However Brittany Morefield was able to induce three straight fielder’s choices that resulted in 5-2 force outs at home.
“That was huge,” Happy Valley coach Mike Dorsey said. “I mean, if we don’t make those plays, it’s a whole different ballgame. But they were fired up and ready, and they took care of business.”
Morefield made it a second straight contest in the district tournament without an earned run. She scattered eight hits that led to those two runs. The defense played behind her for 16 ground-ball outs, which included six fielder’s choices to record outs.
The ladies in maroon took that momentum for two runs in the top of the second. With two outs, Dugger and Hannah Blevins scored on an error on Krisley Roberts’ ball to short.
All in all, the Lady Cyclones had five errors that led to five unearned runs.
“You obviously can’t make seven errors and expect to win,” Elizabethton head coach LeAnna Click said. “Happy Valley came out and they hit the ball.”
Elizabethton did answer in the bottom of the second. Danielle Loving’s two-run double to left tied the score at that point. Casey Jones and Emily Carr were on base to set up the situation.
The Lady Warriors had six hits in the contest and drew four walks from Lindsey Cunningham. Cunningham ended the contest with three earned runs on those half-dozen hits. She mixed in three strikeouts. With the bat, she was 2-for-4.
The Lady Cyclones were led offensively with two hits from Dugger and Loving as well as Cunningham.
Johnson County survived to play again Tuesday, thanks in part to a nine-run sixth inning.
Ashley Arnold remained perfect in the tournament by going 3-for-3 with two walks and scored three times. On Thursday, the Lady Longhorn was 2-for-2 and hit by a pitch.
At the top of the lineup, Haley Miller was 4-for-5 and scored four times. Eden Smith, Cindi Edington and Miranda Payne all added two hits apiece. Smith drove in four of her teammates.
“It’s always a team effort, whatever happens,” Johnson County head coach Dana Smith said. “Sometimes they wait a little bit late to do things I want them to, but tonight they waited a while. Tonight our defense was sound. That was a difference. I think that playing a game and having one dropped ball is not bad.”
Edington worked around eight hits over seven innings in the circle. She struck out eight and walked just one.
Sullivan North’s Jessica Parker and Ginny Ketron had two hits apiece.
Top-seeded Unicoi County won for the 39th time this season thanks to a five-run third inning.
Chelsey Gardner, Shea Pearson and Ashley Starnes each had three hits for the Lady Blue Devils. Jessica Presser had a pair of RBIs as well.
In the circle, Kacy Silvers struck out 10 over seven innings. She scattered five hits that led to a pair of runs.
The Lady Patriots scored a run in the first and fourth frames.
Angel Trent was tagged for five runs on 11 hits in the six innings. She gave out three walks as well.