The Lady Longhorns faced a true battle to the finish Thursday against the Lady Cyclones. In a surprisingly strong showing Johnson County led the majority of the game, only for Elizabethton to finally get the last few runs they needed to send the game into extra innings. Yet even then the long running grudge match wasnt over, becoming a battle of the defenses that lasted all the way down to a fateful last run in the bottom of the 10th. Although it was ultimately Elizabethton that came out on top 5-4, Coach Dana Smith was still very pleased with her teams tenacity and ability to keep fighting.
Just think about the difference between our place and here, Smith began. I think they expected this game to be over in five innings. I really dont know what anybody thinks about my girls and I really at this point dont care. They will battle with anybody and fight with anybody and do everything that they can do.
Considering they lost to Elizabethton by double digits at home earlier in the year, it was amazing to see the Lady Longhorns lead the first three innings 3-0 against the Lady Cyclones. Michala Cretsinger and Brianna Snyder both got on base early in the first with solid hits and were advanced on a huge double from Jayme Jennings that earned her two RBIs. That got things started but Johnson County continued the pace with a third run from Cindi Eddington to start off the third inning.
It wasnt enough of a lead to offset some of the Lady Cyclones later advances, including a two run sweep in the fourth, but Johnson Countys defense did do an amazing job of holding Elizabethton at bay. Brianna Snyder pitched the game for the Lady Longhorns and was a key factor in maintaining such a long running lead, but many of the truly spectacular plays actually came from the handful of very close catches by outfielders like Michala Cretsinger and Courtney Wilson.
We made changes in the defense and it paid off, Smith said. We did the things we needed to do. We concentrate on the little things all the time. Courtney Wilson in center field played unbelievable today. Brianna pitched an unbelievable game and Meghan played great. Michala played unbelievable, relayed perfect, just different things that you talk about during the game. Both teams did what they needed to do. Im very proud of this team and the effort that they put forth and how hard they have been working, and consistently working. The other day I dont even know how long they hit. Things like that are going to pay off in the long run. Were starting to see more consistent play and more things happening.
Still leading 4-2 coming into the fifth, the Lady Longhorns struggled and were able to keep Elizabethton off the scoreboard all the way down to the 7th. Having held on that long it looked as though Johnson County might actually pull off a win, but luck was still on the Lady Cyclones side and a couple of huge hits turned into two runs, tying up the game and sending it into an 8th inning.
The game might have ended much sooner had a couple of the Lady Longhorns runners been successful in the seventh. However, as Coach Smith pointed out, mistakes are even more costly when they are made at a critical time. We had an opportunity with no outs and runners in the scoring position, Smith began. Both our runners made mistakes, especially my runner at third who left off without tagging. We had some other base running mistakes that cost us in the long run. We see different aspects that we have to work on, thats one of the things that were going to have to concentrate on this week.
Now faced with an extension of the game neither side was willing to back down, and one after another batters on both sides of the equation were struck out or caught out by the opposing teams defense. The game ground to a standstill as the eighth, ninth, and even the top of the 10th passed by without a single real advancement. Thats when disaster struck as the bottom of the 10th and the Lady Cyclones finally got the one hit they needed to bump a final runner home and end the extremely long and tense game with a one run lead 5-4.
Despite the loss it was plain to see that Johnson County has improved by leaps and bounds, especially considering the reputation of Elizabethtons program. Their focus was here, Smith concluded. Their focus was totally on the game and they knew that if they played they way they are capable of playing they could play with anybody and beat anybody. That attitude is starting to show up and thats one thing Im happy about. My young players are buying into the attitude that you have to come after me.