By Rick Sheek
Look for another spirited softball season from Johnson County, according to observers around the Three Rivers Conference.
Dana Smith, coach of the Lady Longhorns, doesn’t have any problem with the preseason accolades.
“Our strengths are as usual,” Smith said earlier this week before her team scrimmaged Hampton at Elizabethton. “We don’t give up at all till the game’s over. Our strengths will include speed on the bases. We’re going to run the bases this year.”
Johnson County won 21 games a year ago, but didn’t make it out of the District 1-AA tournament.
Freshman Cindy Eddington is the ace pitcher. Danielle Hensley, a senior, is currently sidelined with injury.
“I also have some more freshmen that are going to come along really well, I think,” Smith said.
“I hope by the time that we get into it, and they work hard, I have one that I hope pitches a little bit on varsity.”
That would be Mindy Blevins.
Liza Watson, a sophomore, is the catcher. Miranda Payne, a senior is back at first base.
Ashley Arnold, a junior, is at second base for the third season. Sophomore Kelsey Watson is the shortstop, unless Eddington is not pitching and slides into that slot.
Haley Miller, a junior, is the third baseman. The outfield consists of junior Haley Miller in left, senior Eva Smith in center and senior Holly Harrison in right.
“The good thing about our team is I can run up to three combinations and be OK,” Smith said. “We run three different combinations in practice. They all work.”
The coach insists she believes the run of Unicoi County and Elizabethton moving onto the Region 1-AA tournament without a challenge may be in question.
“I think that pretty much, and we’ve all talked about it, the conference is wide open,” Smith said. “It’s going to depend on how well everybody’s young players come up, because several people lost key players. It’s just going to matter who comes along faster, I believe, and who plays.”