On Monday afternoon the Unaka Lady Rangers bats were ominously quiet, while the Johnson County bats rocked Ronnie Hicks Field all evening.
The Lady Longhorns (1-0) drilled 10 hits, including three extra base knocks, to notch a 12-1 win over Unaka in Johnson County’s season opener.
JC scored three runs out of the gate in the first inning as Haley Miller reached on an error in the Ranger infield, and both Ashley Arnold and Eden Smith drilled base knocks to plate Miller.
An infield out by pitcher Cindy Edington brought home another run to make it a 2-0 Longhorn lead before a two out hit by Holly Harrison staked Edington to a 3-0 lead before the Rangers had seen a pitch.
Unaka went in order through the first nine to the dish, and in the meantime the ’Horns were adding to their lead by the third frame.
“After scoring 14 runs against Elizabethton, the way we swung the bats tonight was a mystery,” Unaka head coach Carrie Stevens said. “I expected Johnson County to be a tough team, but I expected us to score a lot of runs. I think we had three hits. Plus we let the leadoff hitter on a lot and it’s hard when you have a lead runner on, to not give up a run.”
Liza Watson opened the inning with a home run over the fence in left field, sparking a big five-run JC explosion that gave the ’Horns an 8-0 lead after three frames.
In the rally Harrison had an infield hit, Miranda Payne also had a base hit while Kelsey Watson’s knock drove home two, and Miller capped off the inning with an RBI hit.
“After the second inning I told my team, ‘If Unaka is anything like us, they aren’t going to quit,’” said Lady Longhorns head coach Dana Smith. “I felt that three runs wouldn’t be enough and I wanted us to keep doing what we were doing in terms of hitting.”
The Rangers (2-2) broke the shutout in the sixth as Autumn Bradshaw walked and was sacrificed to second by Winters. Jessie Matheson also dropped down a bunt and was throw out at first as Bradshaw moved to third.
The ’Horns’ first baseman then threw to third to catch Bradshaw, but her throw was errant and Bradshaw scampered home.
Winters gave it her best shot pitching in the opener due to an ankle injury to junior starter Leslie Colbaugh. Freshman pitcher Taylor Dilks was also unavailable, so Winters was pressed into duty.
Caitlyn Buckles had a pair of hits for Unaka, as did Madison Weaver.
Edington went the distance for JC giving up just four hits, while striking out five and issuing one free pass.
Kristin Roark had a pair of doubles and drove home two runs to help the ’Horns to victory. Freshman pitchers Hope Nelson and Demi Blevins held the Rangers to one run on just one hit, but also walked five.
“Tonight we hit from top to bottom,” said Smith. “Nelson and Demi are both freshmen, and so is Edington. I have a young team and we will keep working on our hitting, which was good tonight. We’re at home on Thursday and we are looking forward to our home opener.”
The Rangers committed three errors in the contest, which led to unearned runs against another pitcher getting her first experience in the circle, sophomore Brandi Ensor. The errors were expensive as two of them led directly to three JC runs.
JC scored three in the first and two more in the second to take control of the contest early. Roark’s second double drove home a run in the fifth to make it a six run lead for the ‘Horns.
Johnson Co. 12, Unaka 1
Johnson Co. 305 010 3 — 12 10 0
Unaka 000 001 0 — 1 4 3
Edington and L.Watson. Winters and J.Matheson. W—Edington. L—Winters. HRs—L. Watson. 2B—E. Smith.
Johnson County 8, Unaka 1
Johnson Co. 320 12 — 5 7 0
Unaka 001 00 — 1 1 3
W—Nelson. L—Ensor. 2B—Roark 2.