By Jonathan Pleasant
This years astonishingly young and very talented team of Lady Longhorns once again exceeded expectations, going toe to toe with the top ranked Elizabethton Lady Cyclones on their own field and very nearly pulling out a win. One of only four seniors on the team, Ashley Arnold was the first to get on base, taking advantage of a Cyclone error and then moving forward on a first base hit by Jayme Jennings that earned her yet another RBI for the season.
With sophomore Hope Nelson pitching most of the game, Johnson County held off Elizabethton for three more innings while building up a strong offensive standing. In all Nelson threw four strikeouts, with two in the second inning alone. The pitcher then went on to prove her worth on the bases as well, making the second run of the night. Arnold was the next up, once again earning a first base before moving on a bunt by Abby Reece. Taking advantage of yet another Cyclone error, Jayme Jennings earned her second RBI of the evening and pushed her team ahead 3-0.
With Elizabethton loading the bases at the beginning of the fifth, things took a dramatic turn for the worse. Following two base hits, the Lady Cyclones had a runner on first and second. An out at first base ended the third batters bid, but a huge hit to center field from the fourth batter proved to be very costly. We turned them loose and blew the lead, said head coach Dana Smith. We had Jayme Jennings and Abby Reece running into each other and that ball fell right where we would have been out of it. We would have been out with maybe them scoring one, but we were ahead 3-0.
With that collision Elizabethton was able to put in a double and run in their first score of the night. Loaded up again, a walk pushed the second runner on through and with a last base hit, the Lady Cyclones took back the lead in one fell swoop. Now trailing by one, Johnson Countys offense seemed to fall apart, closing out the game with nothing but strikeouts and short pop-ups.
The defense continued to hold strong, but even then could not prevent a last homerun hit at the start of the sixth. Failing to pull out the two runs they needed to tie up the game, Johnson County closed out the game with a narrow but disappointing loss. Despite the shortfalls at the end, Coach Smith was more than pleased to see her team come together against such as strong opponent.
We didnt hit, Smith said. We stopped hitting. It wasnt anything their pitcher was doing; it was just something we were doing. But, our defense played well. I was very pleased with our effort against them because they have not played Unicoi yet, so theyre sitting at the number one spot. Of course Unicoi is right there and theyre kind of tied. We played well, our young girls stepped up and played well and thats very good. We should have won it. They tried every way in the world to give it to us but it just didnt happen. I was pleased with our effort against Elizabethton. We have improved tremendously. If they keep getting along like they get along now and they keep gaining in their confidence and supporting each other, anything is possible.
Final Score: Johnson County 3, Elizabethton 5
By Jonathan Pleasant