By Tim Chambers
A sigh of relief was evident when sophomore third baseman Bella Miller squeezed the lazy fly ball to end the game. Final score, Johnson County 6, Elizabethton 5.
It’s been a struggle in the early going for first year head coach Angela Blevins and her Longhorns. They were winless until Tuesday’s big victory.
No need to hit the panic button because things are in great shape with the current softball program. Blevins should be commended for her excellent coaching job and bravery.
She didn’t put a band-aid on things when the team couldn’t score runs. Instead, she inserted several underclassmen in key roles to shore up the defense and called on a trio of seniors to tighten up the middle.
Now the hitting has started to come around.
It’s obvious that Hannah Brooks was the marquee player in Tuesday’s win over the Cyclones. The freshman went 3-3 with two homers, one a grand slam and six RBIs in addition to pitching the victory.
But the talented Brooks was quick to hand out praise to her teammates.
“My middle infield made some super plays,” stated Brooks about seniors Michala Cretsinger and Eden Fenner. “It makes pitching so much easier when you have good defensive players like that backing you.”
Now back to the youth movement.
Natalie Winters was her battery mate behind the plate. She’s another freshman with a cannon-like arm that kept the Cyclones at bay on the bases.
Abby Cornett was the third freshman starter in left field. She had a great catch in the game and her speed was the key factor.
All three were playing middle school at this time last year.
Look further and you’ll find a pair of sophomores in the lineup.
Bella Miller, one of two sophomore starters, had a key base hit just before Brooks’ second homer that put them ahead. She was also on with a walk when Brooks launched her grand slam.
Lindsey Wills has been knocking the cover off the ball since her insertion into the lineup. She can play multiple positions which makes her even more valuable to the team.
Building a competitive team is all about growing pains. You have to take the good with the bad. And you also have to take chances.
Blevins has done that.
You could see that growth continue in the Longhorns win over Happy Valley.
Winters had three hits and caught a great game. Hannah Brooks hit her sixth homer and came on in relief to earn the save.
Cornett was steady again in the outfield and the senior trio of Cretsinger, Eggers and Fenner combined for nine hits and made several outstanding defensive plays.
Will there still be more growing pains for Johnson County this season? Only time will tell.
But rest assured that their youth is going to play a key role in every game from here on out.
And we might even get another big win or two.
Tim Chambers is the sports editor at the Tomahawk. He can be emailed at [email protected]