Carter County players help Unicoi County squad reach the Southeast Regional

Published 11:04 am Thursday, July 20, 2023

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Winning state championships has become a habit for the Unicoi County Little League softball squad. The blended Lady Blue Devils took home their third consecutive title and will look to move on to the Little League World Series if they can take the Southeast Regional title beginning July 24 in Warner Robbins Georgia.
Among the Blue Devils squad are a handful of Carter County players who are able to play across county lines as Elizabethton does not currently have a Little League affiliation. Among those are Laci Gobble – from T.A. Dugger – who is playing at an MVP level as she came through the state tournament having pitched 25 innings with one unearned run surrendered.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Gobble said. “It has been cool to play against teams from across the state, and it was fun last year when we went to Georgia. We do a lot of chants and it helps to keep our energy high.”
Also in the pitching circle is Ayla Horney from Cloudland Middle School who has also been a large part of the state title run. “We are feeling pretty confident,” Horney said. “We have been hitting the ball well, I had a hit and a walk in the last game. I think it will be cool to get to play teams from different states. I play travel ball too so I really love this game.”
Madison Van Tassell helps anchor a solid infield defense from her second base spot and she said of the experience at the state tournament saying, “A lot of those teams were from close by in Clarksville and we had to travel five or six hours to get there. And we had to play a late game at 10 o’clock at night which was a disadvantage. We were all tired staying in hotels and getting up early, but I think it made us come together and I think we did well. I actually went to Georgia last year and it is such a big place. We were kind of scared last year, but this year I think we got it.”
The rest of the infield consists of Abigail Peterson at first base, with Deanna Gill at shortstop and Lucy Jo Linville manning third base.
Catching this group of stellar pitchers is Willow Bennett from CMS and she thinks the team has a good shot at winning at the next level. “We faced good competition at the state and I think it will be the same at the Southeast tournament. We have real good pitching with Laci and Ayla. Laci throws hard and is very accurate and Ayla moves the ball around more. Both of them are effective.”
The outfield has Emma Grace Anders, Olivia Jones and Ava Hanson and Hanson said of her state experience, “It was a very big deal to us. We really wanted to win and we have the pitching and defense to do it. I think it will be a lot of fun competing against teams from other states and meeting people and making friends.”
Head coach Seth Jones was pleased with his teams determination and grit in overcoming the difficulties at the state tournament saying, “They are a great team and they work hard. They pleased me with their attitude and willingness to work. It doesn’t matter to them who hits where and whatever they just come to play. They pick each other up and they fought hard in district and state. We had some close games and actually trailed in the championship game but we came back and got the win.”

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