First-inning fireworks blast Unicoi past Happy Valley

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, March 25, 2015

by Bryce Phillips

Star Staff

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Once Unicoi got rolling in the first inning, the Lady Warriors could not keep pace, losing 6-1 Tuesday at Happy Valley High School.

It all started when Unicoi’s Tiffany Laughren, who finished the night 1 of  4 at the plate,  blasted a two-run homer out of left field to advanced the Lady Blue Devils to 2-0. Unicoi continued to work the bases as it brought in two more runs in the top of the first.

“That set the pace for us,” Unicoi coach Grady Lingerfelt said. ”Fortunately, we made some good plays. Tiffany hit a big one. It was a good inning.”

For the Lady Warriors, it was an inning of crucial errors, Happy Valley coach Mike Dorsey said.

“We had way to many errors,” he said. “We made more errors in that inning that we have all year. Against a good team like Unicoi, you just can’t do that.”

In the bottom of the opening frame, with two outs and rightfielder Kaitlyn Roberts on first and catcher Beth Reece on second, Happy Valley pitcher Kalee Johnson knocked a single to outfield, bringing home Roberts. Reece also would be called to home but would be tagged out, closing Happy Valley’s at bat.

“Even I made a coaching error when I sent Reece home, and I take full responsibility for that,” Dorsey said.

The Lady Devils again found their way home in the third when Taylor Wright tagged up and sprinted in from third during a fly out by Unicoi’s Cierra Jackson.

The last run of the game came in the fifth, when Laughren recorded a run off of a base hit from Taylor Wright.

The Lady Warriors would put the ball in play 14 times after the first inning, but the Lady Blue Devils’ fielding would prove to be impenetrable.

Johnson pitched all seven innings for the Lady Warriors, throwing six stirkeouts against four walks. She would ultimately give up seven hits and six runs.

“It is still early in the season, and she is still building up,” Dorsey said about Johnson. “I want to make sure she gets built up earlier than later.”

Johnson’s counterpart, Abby Hensley, also threw for seven innings. She only allowed four hits for the game, while throwing four strikeouts.

“Abby is a good little pitcher,” Lingerfelt said about Hensley. “She can change speeds really well. She is a smart pitcher and hits her spots really well.”

For Happy Valley, Reece had some big plays from behind the plate. In the third, she threw out Destine Hayes, who was making her way to third. The top of the sixth would see Reece close out Unicoi’s at bat, when she found Hensley to far away from third, before firing the ball to third baseman Emily Whitaker, who promptly tagged Hensley out.

“She always makes some big plays,” Dorsey said about Reece. “She had them standing on the bases. They would not come off.

Leading in batting for the Lady Blue Devils was Taylor Wright, who went 3 of 3 with two runs, while making it to base every time she was up. For the Lady Warriors, Reece went 2 of 2.

The loss put the Lady Warriors at 3-1 in the conference and 5-3 overall, while the Lady Blue Devils advanced to 3-0 in the conference.

Next up for the Lady Warriors is a trip to Johnson County Thursday to take on the Lady Longhorns for another conference battle.