ELIZABETHTON—Johnson County’s up and down roller coaster softball season came to an abrupt halt on Wednesday in the play-in game of the District 1-AA softball tournament. The Longhorns squandered away a 7-0 lead and fell 8-7 to Happy Valley at Elizabethton High School.
The Lady Warriors scored seven runs in the bottom of the sixth to go up by one after trailing 7-1 entering the frame.
It appeared like the Horns had the game well in hand after sprinting to what seemed to be a sizable advantage. They scored three times in the first inning.
Bella Miller’s RBI double plated Natalie Winters for the first run. Tiffany Price delivered the big blow, a two-run single that scored Lindsey Wills and Miller for a 3-0 advantage.
They continued to pad their lead in the fifth inning with a four-run outburst.
Abby Cornett led off with a single then later scored on an infield single by Winters. They upped the ante at 7-0 thanks to a two-run double by Emmy Miller and an RBI groundout from her sister Bella.
Johnson County got an outstanding pitching effort by freshman Hailey Rider for five innings. She struck out the side in the second inning an escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third, but lady luck wasn’t with the Longhorns in the sixth.
The Warriors sent 12 batters to the plate and eight hit safely. Hannah Brooks came on in relief of Rider with the score 7-4 and the bases loaded, but a costly error prevented them from getting out of the inning with a three-run lead.
Instead, Maddie Lingerfelt smacked a clutch two-out single that put them in front 8-7. The Horns went down in order in the seventh ending their season with 13 total wins under first-year head coach Greg Reece.
Maddi Edington went 2-for-4 at the plate to lead the Longhorns. Price, Bella Miller, Emmy Miller, Cornett, Winters, and Wills added one apiece.
Hannah Brooks was intentionally walked four times in the game and received the same number during Tuesday’s game with the Valley at home, which resulted in a loss.
Lingerfelt had three base hits to lead the Warriors with Laura Rice added two.
The Lady Longhorns had a chance to avoid the play-in game and get into the double elimination but dropped a 5-1 contest to Happy Valley on senior day at home.
Natalie Winters went 2-for-2 to lead the Longhorns. Tiffany Price and Cassidy Lakatos had the only other hits.
Bella Miller and Lindsey
Wills were the only two seniors on the Longhorns roster. They’ll return seven starters next year
with a good core of sophomores and a talented incoming freshman class.
Head coach Greg Reece remains optimistic after their up and
“Senior night was disappointing because we had countless opportunities to win. We didn’t make the adjustments early enough and that falls on me as a coach. Our two seniors Bella Miller and Lindsey Wills have been great players for our program and leaders. I can’t say enough about these two because they both can play miultiple positions.”
Reece went on to say about the 8-7 District loss.
“For five and a half innings we were the better team. Hailey Rider pitched great but eventually HV adjusted and started getting some baserunners. We had some uncharacteristic play in that sixth inning, and HV got hot with the bat.
Overall, it was a good season, but nowhere near our expectations. We won thirteen varsity games, and we won the bronze bracket at Tiny Day. Losing to HV on Tuesday put us in a three way tie, and I drew the number seven tie breaker back in November.
But most encouraging is that we competed with the top teams in the conference. Sullivan East had to beat us in the last inning both times, and we played Unicoi tough all three times. Our team batting average improved significantly and at times we were very good defensively. There are a lot of improvements to be made but with the youth we have I expect us to show a great deal of improvement in our outcomes next season.”