By Tim Chambers
A quick exit by the high school baseball and softball teams in tournament play left very little for Longhorn fans to cheer about this year. The middle school baseball team was eliminated 13-12 in the first round of their tournament so all hopes of a championship in 2017 were resting on the middle school softball team’s shoulders.
They did not disappoint Longhorn fans in round one.
A four-run sixth inning allowed them to walk away with a 13-3 victory and move into the semifinals round versus Unaka.
Head coach Greg Reece was very happy with the way his team played. He felt like it all started at practice.
“We worked hard in practice on Monday before the game,” said Reece. “It was good to actually practice on a real field instead of the track or the tennis courts. Parts of our lineup hit well. We were patient and drew some walks, then moved those runners around. We played pretty well in the field, and gave Hailey (Rider) the support she needed. This was an elimination game so you have to come out ready to play. I thought our kids did that.”
Hampton dented the scoreboard first with a couple of key hits in the frame. Sara Orr and Destiny Milhorn delivered RBI singles that put the Dogs on top 2-0 but the Horns erased that in the bottom half.
Maddi Edington started it off with a single, then scored on Emmy Miller’s triple to make it 2-1.
Cassidy Lakatos doubled to tie the game at 2-2, and she later came home on a wild pitch to make it 3-2.
They would never relinquish the lead again.
Haley Cox walked to start the second inning and scored on Edington’s sacrifice fly. Miller then delivered her second three-bagger that led to three more runs.
Sydni Potter, Deanna Younce and Rider hit safely in the inning, allowing the Horns to increase their lead at 8-2.
The Longhorns used an RBI double from Lakatos that stretched it at 9-2 in the third before their humongous outburst in the sixth.
Younce had the biggest blow, a two-run single that made it 11-3. Rider’s double and Cox’s single would end the game due to the 10-run rule.
“Our hitters are starting to get mentally tougher at the plate,” added Reece. “We are doing a much better job hitting with two strikes. Emmy has been on fire at the plate and others are following suit. We’re starting to play some good softball right here at tournament time.”
Miller led the Longhorns, going 3-3 with three runs scored. Lakatos was 2-3 with two runs scored and a pair of RBI’s. Younce drove two runs going 2-4. Rider was 2-4 with two RBI’s. Edington and Cox went 1-3 each.
Milhorn and Andrews banged out two hits apiece to lead the Bulldogs. Orr, Madison Setlock, Maggie Dugger and Kendra Perkins had one hit each.
Rider went the distance on the mound to earn the win. She struck out five and never walked a batter.
The Longhorns will now face Unaka in the semifinals. Hampton will play in the consolation round.