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Lady Longhorns no-hit Sullivan East

Sam Mahala had already thrown one no-hitter, but last Wednesday in Bluff City, she chose a perfect time to throw another one.
The Lady Longhorn senior received plenty of help from her field and kept the Lady Patriots in check to throw her second no-hitter of the season in an 8-0 victory over Sullivan East at Pierce Field.
Mahala didn't give up a hit and pitched as well as she had when the Lady Longhorns defeated Elizabethton in a perfect game, but the story might have been how well the Lady Longhorn defense played.
One young lady who really stood out was Hollie Harrison, who had two outstanding catches in the game.
For Harrison, she was glad to help out her team and preserve the no-hitter.
“I was intense today and wanted to win,” Harrison said. “I think we need an outfield because if we didn't have an outfield it might go by. I think it's fun and I enjoy it.”
The Lady Longhorns had been struggling coming in, but showed their full potential in this one.
“This game brought us up,” Harrison said. “We wanted to win.”
For Mahala, this game was just what was needed.
“It feels pretty good,” Mahala said. “I'm pretty excited about it. This feels a whole better.”
There was one play in the game that looked like was going to break up the no-hitter, but an outstanding diving catch by Ashley Arnold at second base allowed it to continue.
“I owe Ashley for that dive,” Mahala said. “I give a lot of credit to my teammates and a lot of credit to God, too.”
Defense has been a sticking point for JCHS lately as errors have really hurt the Lady Longhorns in previous games. Last Wednesday, they only had two.
Take away those two errors and JCHS played an almost flawless defensive game.
“Today was about the defense and we needed to have a good showing defensively,” JCHS head coach Dana Smith said. “They stepped up today. Ashley made an unbelievable catch at second base and Hollie made an two great catches in right field and we've working hard on defense the last several days. We've done less hitting than we have all year and we've really concentrated on defense and with it raining we have been hitting balls and hitting balls in the gym and the two days on the field we were going defense all out just hitting balls at them. They're starting to get their focus back on the defense and it was a good game for the team.”
Mahala's perfect game at Elizabethton and this no-hitter were outstanding for her, but Smith saw a little different feel to this one.
“Today was more about defensively stepping up because that's what we've been focusing on and as a coach that's what you want to see. The big difference with all of our games lately has been our defense and today was a great defensive effort. We're trying to make sure everybody is on the same page and today everybody was on the same page.”
In all the talk about the great defensive effort, it can't be forgotten about how well JCHS hit early in the game.
The spark plug was Eden Smith when she hit a three-run shot over the center field fence to give the Longhorns a 3-0 lead in the third inning.
Miranda Payne added a key double later in the frame to help give JCHS a 6-0 advantage and a commanding lead.
From there, Mahala was able to relax and so did the field.
Eden Smith, who also hit a three-run home run in Thursday's game against Unicoi, really gave JCHS the lift it needed.
“I knew it was only a matter of time before she did it again because she has really been hitting the ball deep and her focus has been on the ball. I'm happy for her and happy for all our hitters. We hit the ball in gaps today and that's what we've wanted to do and were doing early in the season. Let's hope everything is balancing back out,” Coach Smith said.
The game was very special to Smith, who celebrated her 50th birthday.
Smith has been a fixture in girls sports at JCHS since the 1980s and has built a softball program from scratch.
The win on Wednesday was a present she will never forget.
“I can't think of a better birthday present,” Smith said. “This is what I wanted to do and now that I've turned 50 to be around these bunch of girls and to be around this team means everything to me. I love them and they know it. I don't know if I would be the type of person without them. They make me a better person. They keep me young.”
Ashley Arnold went 3-for-4, Sam Mahala, Elizabeth Dugger and Miranda Payne both had two singles, Eden Smith was 2-for-4 with a home run and Rebecca Royston finished with a single.
Thursday's Game
Unicoi County 4
The Lady Longhorns made a valiant comeback against the area's premier program in a game that was far different than the 19-0 rout in Erwin a couple of weeks ago.
JCHS was down 4-0 going into the bottom of the seventh, but cut the Unicoi lead to 4-3 when Eden Smith hammered her second home run in two days.
Unfortunately for JCHS, there wasn't one more runner on and the Lady Longhorns couldn't finish it off. Still, it was a very heroic inning for this improving squad.
“It was an unbelievable game,” Coach Smith said. “As a team no one can count us out. We kept fighting to the end.
“Coach Grady Lingerfelt said “I can't believe how well you all play at home. They've worked hard.”
Unicoi's Kara Woods had a perfect game going until the seventh inning and could relax with her solid field behind her. However, the JCHS field was very strong on the day as well.
“They don't have to worry much about defense and it takes the pressure off the pitcher,” Smith said.
As far as the hot bat of Eden Smith, she is absolutely on fire for the Lady Longhorns with two home runs in two days. Smith helped almost carried this team to an amazing victory and she was able to do something special by hitting a home run off the ETSU signee.
“Eden is hitting phenomenally and has eight home runs on the year,” Smith said. “I don't know what we would do without her.”
The Lady Longhorns deserve some major credit for not giving up when the going got tough.
“I told them no matter what to keep going and not giving up and that will give you an opportunity to win any game,” Smith said.
Lizzie Dugger and Eden Smith had the only hits for JCHS.