Having started the season with a very young team that had never really worked together, no one would have anticipated just how well the Lady Longhorns have done this year. With the exception of a few down turns on some of their tougher tournament runs, JCHSs softball team has won or at least held the potential to win in every game they have played so far, undeniably turning heads as they have traveled around the region to face some huge challenges.
Most recently, the Lady Longhorns took on the top ranking, Unicoi Lady Blue Devils, on their own field. Although Johnson County wasnt able to pull out a late game win, there were enough close calls and strong defensive plays to keep Unicoi sweating. We did everything right, said Assistant Coach Lisa Mullins. We just didnt do enough right. We had people on to score, we just didnt score them.
Known for their tough defense, thanks to players like second baseman Ashley Arnold, Unicoi had an extraordinarily difficult time finding a gap to clear a base hit. The first inning went quickly for the Lady Blue Devils, who despite being able to get some contact on a few of sophomore Hope Nelsons pitches, were shut down repeatedly in the field. The first hit was an easy catch at left field, while center fielder, Abby Reece, picked up the second. With a third out at home plate, Unicoi walked away from their first at bat with nothing to show for their efforts.
Having kicked off the game, the Lady Longhorns had a better start, though just barely. With Hope Nelson taking an out off hit to center field, senior Ashley Arnold was able to gain first off a shot into right field. A sacrifice by Abby Reece pushed Arnold to second before a strikeout against freshman Jayme Jennings ended the inning.
Both teams struggled in the second inning, with Unicoi making it as far as third base, only to be stopped by a third out thanks to some quick fielding between Nelson on the mound and senior Kristin Roark at first. Showing her versatility, Nelson went on to get the Longhorns second hit of the third inning as well, advancing an earlier hit for freshman Kelsey Duperry that was cut short on her way to third.
It was a stalemate up to this point, but as the Lady Blue Devils went up to bat, they got the break they were looking for; a huge homerun from the second position in the lineup that allowed Unicoi to put up the first two runs of the game. Determined not to let their opponents get on a roll, the Lady Longhorns were quick to get back on track and shut Unicoi down again, but the damage was already done.
Now needing some offensive success more than ever, Johnson County worked hard to put a runner on base, which they did after a big hit by Jayme Jennings. Senior Linnea Youngue made a sacrifice hit that pushed Jennings on to second, but as with the case earlier in the game, the Lady Longhorns were unable reach home before gaining their third out.
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