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Girls gain tourney experience before championship

Utilizing their last weekend of play before the start of the district Championship, the Johnson County Lady Longhorns traveled to Greeneville to take part in the annual Tiny Day Tournament. Working through four games of pool play and one round in the actual tournament, Johnson County’s girls got the chance to not only see some new talent but also to prove how far they have come in the past few weeks. The fun kicked off Friday with back-to-back games against North Greene and Grainger County.
Starting off strong, Grainger put up a whopping nine runs in the first two innings before the Longhorn defense finally took a hold on the situation and shut them down for the rest of the game. The damage was already done and although Cindi Eddington and Kelsey Duperry were both able to complete runs in the third, Johnson County’s offense simply couldn’t make the necessary advances. The second game against North Greene was considerably better when Johnson County’s superior fielding held North to just one run the entire game. Granted, a second runner made it all the way to third base in the second inning but was left stranded by two consecutive strikeouts from the mound. Now at 1-1 overall, Johnson County came into Saturday’s games facing Cocke County and Union County, both of which put up determined fights.
Mirror opposites, the game against Union saw the Lady Longhorns struggle in vain to hold the offense at bay. Putting up runs in every inning, the game was actually still a manageable 0-3 up to the third inning when Union’s girls simply exploded from the box with an opening homerun and single after single. Nine runners in all made it to home plate before Johnson County could get the final out, ending the game early on a mercy ruling.
The Lady Reds from Cocke County proved to be a much more accommodating force for the Longhorn offense with consistent players like Kalli Sluder going two for four and landing some big hits like the critical second inning home run from Cindi Eddington that earned her three RBIs. By the end of the game, Johnson County had shut down the Lady Reds 10-0 and earned themselves a spot in the Tiny Day Championship on Sunday.
That last matchup proved to be the most important, with the Lady Longhorns facing off against the Gatlinburg-Pittman Lady Highlanders, an extremely talented team that Johnson County actually played on a road trip at the beginning of the season.
“They beat us early in the season at the Play Day,” said Head Coach Dana Smith.  “I think they thought we were the same team. We went back and forth back and forth. We scored five runs and eventually it was tied 7-7. We went international tiebreak and it was timed. A ball was hit at third and dropped in and the runner scored so we lost 7-8 but it was a great game.”
As Smith pointed explained, Johnson County got off with a great five run sweep to start the game only to come up short by one run in the last inning. Although the final result was ultimately disappointing the Lady Longhorns still proved that they have greatly matured this season, leaving Greeneville with their heads held high in the knowledge that they held their own against several very well renowned teams.
“I felt like it was a great game for us to be involved with,” Smith said about that final game.  “Everybody was in it. Everybody was really into the game, focused on the game, and actually having a good time. I thought this is a great game for us to play coming into the district tournament.”