By Tim Chambers
BLUFF CITY—Last year, the Lady Longhorns were within an eyelash of tasting victory over Sullivan East only to lose thanks to a walk-off home run. Not this year. This year pitching dominated the late innings as Johnson County’s Hannah Brooks fired two innings of scoreless softball to lead her team to a dramatic 9-8 victory over East in an all-important conference matchup. The Lady Patriots were coming off a huge 9-6 win over Unicoi County, so the win was definitely a needed one for Johnson County.
Things didn’t look good in the early going as East jumped on top 3-0 after the first inning, but the Horns rallied to score seven times in the third after batting around. The big blow was a single that drove in two runs by Natalie Winters. Hannah Brooks and Abby Haley Miller also added RBI base hits as the middle of the order drove in four.
The Lady Pats got within two in the bottom half on a two-run homer off the bat of Camden Bawgus. Johnson County was able to maintain the lead due to the outstanding pitching performance on the mound by freshman southpaw Hannah Fritts. She pitched a scoreless fourth inning before giving way to senior Hannah Brooks in the sixth. Johnson County would take the lead in the eighth inning by pushing two runs across the plate, but it was a spectacular defensive play to end the seventh that swung the momentum their way.
Maddie Eddington’s diving catch at shortstop with the go-ahead run at third deflated the East dugout, and the Horns came in to rally and go ahead. Edington followed up her big defensive play with a key base hit, and Abby Cornett had a bunt single that would result in a run. Emmy Miller and Faith Walsh drove in a run each by swatted base hits that put the Horns on top 9-7, giving them what proved to be some much-needed cushion that enabled them to hold on for the win. East scored a solo run in the bottom half, but Brooks stuck out the final batter with the tying and go-ahead runs on base to end East’s mastery of them.
Edington, Brooks, and Miller had two hits apiece to lead the Lady Longhorns. Winters drove in a pair of runs, as did Miller and Cornett. Brooks picked up the mound in relief for the Horns. She struck out two and allowed only two hits in two innings of work. Fritts surrendered eight runs by only five were earned. Bawgus went 3-for-4 with three RBIs to lead East. The Lady Horns are now 2-0 on the season. Head skipper Greg Reece was elated after the contest.
“I am so proud of this team for the way they battled back after East tied the game. Fritts, our freshman, pitched a great game, and Hannah came in and did what we know she can do. And let’s not forget the great play that Maddie made at short, which was huge and got out team back up. This was a big win for us. I am very happy for the girls because we were so close last year and let one getaway.”
The Horns will be back in action on Tuesday at Happy Valley.