Lady Trailblazers clinch Big 8 title for regular season
By Christopher ShieldsWith more than a week still remaining of the softball regular season, the race for the Big 8 Conference’s top seed is already over.
After a 10-9 win over Science Hill on April 16 and an 8-2 win over Dobyns-Bennett on April 18, the Lady Blazers of Daniel Boone High School (28-4, 12-0) stamped their ticket as a No. 1 seed in the district tournament by capturing the regular season conference title.
Ironically, the David Crockett High School Lady Pioneers’ (12-12, 7-5) ascension in conference standings was helped out by rival Boone in its win over D-B.
Now, both Washington County schools occupy two of the top three spots in the Big 8.
Boone’s big week
Entering last week, the Lady Blazers held a two-game lead over Science Hill for the conference’s top spot.
After downing the Lady Hilltoppers in their previous meeting, Boone would have to come from behind to win the second matchup of the season, 10-9. The conference’s top two teams met in Gray for the regular season finale April 16.
After holding Science Hill scoreless in the top of the first, the Blazers grabbed a quick lead in the bottom of the inning on a Haley Wagner two-run home run.
The first would be Science Hill’s only scoreless inning of the contest as the Hilltopper bats dictated the scoreboard thereafter.
Science Hill had little trouble hitting off starting Boone pitcher Mckenzi Ferguson and freshman Jaclyn Jenkins in relief.
The Lady Blazers contributed to the Hilltoppers strong offensive day, committing three errors in the field.
Science Hill scored a run in the second and three in third to take a two-run lead, but Boone bounced back to tie the game in the bottom of the third.
Two more runs in the fourth put Science Hill back in front and the Hilltoppers added to their advantage scoring once in the fifth, sixth and seventh.
Entering the home-half of the seventh, Boone found themselves on the cusp of their first conference loss in three seasons, trailing 9-6.
Ferguson quickly cut into the lead, opening the inning with a homerun.
Then, with two outs and only two runners on base, the outcome of the contest rested on the bat of Kayla Sanders. She answered with a hit, driving in another Blazer run, to bring the game within one.
The next hitter, Hannah Montoya was hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Jenkins.
With two outs and trailing by a run, the freshman showed no signs of cracking. Jenkins hit a shot over second base to drive in two runs, giving the Blazers a 10-9 win and keeping their conference winning streak intact.
Jenkins earned the win in relief. Boone finished with 12 hits in the contest.
The Blazers returned to play on April 18 in Kingsport against Dobyns-Bennett needing a win to clinch the regular season conference title.
This time, Boone wouldn’t need the dramatics to win.
The Lady Blazers opened the contest with a first-inning run and used a four-run fourth and three-run sixth to capture a solid 8-2 win.
Ferguson earned the win in the contest while Jenkins guided the Blazer bats with three RBIs.
third place IN BIG 8
It might have taken the Lady Pioneers a while to get going this season, but they are definitely going now and are proving to be one of the best teams in the conference.
With Boone’s win over Dobyns-Bennett on the same night, the Pioneers April 18 contest against Tennessee High allowed the Lady Pioneers an opportunity to assume sole possession of third place in the Big 8.
It was an opportunity Crockett wasn’t going to pass up.
The Lady Pioneers used extra innings to capture a 3-2 win over Tennessee High on senior night in Bristol.
The Lady Vikings opened the contest with a run in the bottom of the first inning off Crockett pitcher Haley Grindstaff to take an early lead.
From there, the contest settled into a pitching duel.
Still trailing 1-0 in the fifth, Crockett’s Kelli Hooks gave the Pioneers their first lead of the contest with a two-run homerun to turn the contest in Crockett’s favor, 2-1.
The Vikings pushed a run home in the sixth to knot the contest at 2-2.
A scoreless seventh sent the game to an extra inning.
Madison Grindstaff got on board in the top of the inning and senior catcher Jackie Lloyd drove her in.
On the mound, Grindstaff closed out Tennessee High in the bottom of the inning to give Crockett the narrow win.
Grindstaff earned the win in relief. The Pioneers combined for eight hits in the contest.
Crockett now holds a 7-5 record in the conference, a half game lead over D-B.