By Rick Sheek
T.A. Dugger’s girls closed the regular season in impressive fashion.
The Junior Lady Cyclones swept a doubleheader from visiting Church Hill on Saturday by 1-0 and 5-2 decisions in Middle Eight Conference softball action.
Emily Kiser fired a no-hitter in the opener. She allowed one hit in the finale, before Lauren Brickey hurled 21⁄3 no-hit, shutout innings to close.
“It’s just a great job,” said Ken Hardin, the former Elizabethton coach who was assisting the junior high team this weekend. “I’m thankful to be out here helping a great bunch of kids. Emily there in that first game, she’s one batter away from a perfect game, you can’t say enough about her.
“The second game she wanted to go back out there, and Lauren came in and finished strong for us. They did a great job today.”
The Cyclones, who tied for second place, finished 12-4 and host a first-round tournament game on Monday. The remainder of the tourney will be played at Metro Kiwanis Park in Johnson City.
With two out in the fifth, Kiser walked a batter. She then recorded a strikeout to end that contest after fanning out seven.
In the opener, Dugger’s Jessica Cunningham singled and stole second base in the second before being stranded. Bailey Montgomery singled in the third before reaching third on a pair of wild pitches.
With two out, Abbi McKinney delivered a run-scoring single. McKinney then stole second advanced to third on a passed ball, but was stranded.
Church Hill’s Morgan Marshall fired a three-hitter in fanning 10 with no walks and two wild pitches in the first contest.
The top of the fourth saw McKinney, the shortstop, make a lunging grab over the middle for the second out. Cunningham, the center fielder, then retired the Tigers with a running catch near the warning track.
“Two great plays in that one inning,” Hardin said. “McKinney went behind short and made a great play, robbed a girl of a hit. Then Cunningham caught that shot, the hardest hit ball of both games, went back in the outfield and caught it on the line.
“That may have saved the game right there. Two great plays behind her.”
In 22⁄3 innings of the finale, Kiser yielded no earned runs, struck out one and walked five with a wild pitch. Brickey then fanned three and walked one.
The Cyclones surged to a 3-0 advantage in the first inning. Caitlyn Gardner and McKinney led off with bunt singles.
An error plated a score, as did a wild pitch, before Cunningham drove in a run. In the bottom half, Kaitlyn Price led off with a single before being stranded.
In the second, Dugger’s Rachel Robinson walked and stole second and third. She was left on the corner.
The Cyclones went up 4-0 in the third after Kiser crossed on a wild pitch. She had doubled and stolen third.
Church Hill juiced the bags in the bottom half with two out. An error brought in a score, and after Kiser walked in the next batter she was pulled with the score at 4-2.
Brickey took the circle and recorded the third out with three Panthers stranded.
Sarah Slagle singled and McKinney doubled with two out in the fourth. They were left on in scoring position.
McKinney batted 3 for 5 on the day, stealing two bases. She was 2 for 3 in the finale.
Kiser was 2 for 3 in the second game and stole two bases. Robinson and Cunningham also recorded two steals apiece.
Marshall was touched for six hits in the finale, allowing three earned runs. She fanned eight, walked three and hurled three wild pitches.
Church Hill travels to Unicoi County in the tournament’s first round.