District 1-AA Softball Championship Comeback kids… Lady Cyclones take two over Unicoi Co. to take District 1-AA softball title
Published 10:50 pm Friday, May 14, 2021
BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
The pressure was enough to make any experienced team have high anxiety but the way the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones youthful squad took the challenge was just like another walk in the park.
Needing to win the 5:30 pm game to have an opportunity to play for the District 1-AA title immediately afterward, the Lady Cyclones took game one by a 6-0 score and followed that up with a 10-3 win that gave the Lady Cyclones the title over an always tough Unicoi County Lady Blue Devil squad.
It started in the pitching circle
With the ball in the hand of junior Madisun Pritchard in the opening game, the Lady Cyclones only needed to worry about one thing and that was playing defense behind the hard-throwing hurler.
Pritchard continued to mount the strikeouts in the contest as she struck out 12 Unicoi County batters while giving up on five hits in the game with no walks.
Out of 89 pitches, 65 crossed the plate for strikes.
Game two was suppose to belong to Maddie O’Quinn, but O’Quinn felt ill in the opening game and head coach Ken Hardin elected to put Pritchard back in the circle for game two.
Although a little tired from game one, Pritchard once again allowed only five hits in the game while adding six more strikeouts and walked three in the complete-game victory.
Pritchard labored with 120 pitches in the game meaning she threw a total of 209 pitches in two games with 145 of those in the strike zone. She also took a shot off a bat of a Lady Devil batter straight to the chest but stayed with the play to get the out.
It’s what you would expect from the Three Rivers Conference Pitcher of the Year and tournament MVP.
Highlight reel defensive plays prevail
If there is one thing that has other teams taking notice of the young Cyclones is the defensive effort that comes from every player on the team. It was no different in the District 1-AA championship with plays sprinkled all over the field.
Emma O’Quinn made two remarkable catches that looked for sure to be extra-base hits for the Unicoi County batters in the outfield. Cheyenne Poiroux showed that speed and a good glove make for a deadly combination as she made at least a half-dozen catches on balls that appeared destined for hits.
The same can be said about Maely Ingram who is quicker than a jackrabbit and made tough plays look easy.
On the infield, Baylee VanHuss made a quick adjustment to backhand a ball headed for the outfield that could have turned an inning around for Unicoi County had it had gotten by VanHuss.
Ember Jensen, Maddie O’Quinn, and Kallista Deprimo also played rock-solid defense.
Flexing their muscles
In game one, the Lady Cyclones had seven hits but made the most of them with four extra-base hits.
Maddie O’Quinn and Poiroux roped a double apiece while Poiroux also put flight to a home run ball as did Pritchard who hadn’t hit a homer during the regular season but has three in her last four post-season games.
Ingram, Jensen, and Emma O’Quinn also had solid base hits in the opening game.
The Lady Cyclone bats came alive in the second game ringing up 14 hits. Kenidy Harris had four of those hits including a towering home run.
Deprimo added a double while Ingram recorded a pair of triples. The O’Quinn sisters had a combined five hits with Maddie collecting three and Emma two. Mollie Johnson had one hit as did Jensen and Poiroux.
What the coach had to say
“They have done everything that we have asked them to do,” said Lady Cyclone head coach Ken Hardin. “They have worked so hard to get to where they are at.
“It’s been a total team effort. It has been a different kid every night. Madisun led us in this tournament but it has been someone different leading us every night. I am just about speechless with this group. Nobody expected this the first of the year and it’s just unreal what these kids have done.”