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Boone softball ready to defend title

Daniel Boone High School Softball’s Nickolette Ferguson took the victory in the pitcher’s circle against conference opponent Science Hill on Wednesday. (Photo: Doug Fritz / Johnson City Press)


H&T Correspondent

Avenging a loss to rival David Crockett won’t be the primary motivation when Daniel Boone’s softball team hosts the Pioneers on Wednesday.

The Trailblazers (9-2, 29-13), despite tarnishing an impressive win at Science Hill on April 25 with a loss to Cherokee on Monday, can still defend their Big Seven Conference title with a win against Crockett.

“We could tie for the league with a win on Wednesday,” Boone coach Jeremy Jenkins said. “That would be huge for the upcoming district tourney because the No. 1 seed gets the first round bye.”

As disappointing as the 4-1 home loss to Cherokee was, a 10-3 victory that spoiled Senior Day at Science Hill last week gave Boone some margin for error. The Trailblazers fell behind 2-0 thanks to slugger Mia Edwardson’s two-run home run in the first inning, but answered with three runs in the fourth and, after Science Hill tied the score, 3-3, in the fifth, blew the game open with a seven-run sixth.

“To hit around in that inning says a lot for our kids and the approach they took up there,” Jenkins said.

“I thought all of our kids had some really good at-bats, grinded some at-bats out. I thought Kayla Hubbard had two really good at-bats for us. Megan (Ackerman) stayed hot for us.”

Boone scored three runs in the fourth thanks to an RBI single from Kayla Hubbard and a two-out, two-run home run from Greyson Stevens    her fifth of the season.

“I’ve been struggling a little bit,” Stevens said. “So I was shaken up. I took time to regroup myself. Then it was coming in slow motion, so I swung as hard as I possibly could. The bat did the rest. I can never really tell if it’s gone, but it did feel very, very good.”

Ackerman’s two-run double and Matherly’s two-run single highlighted the sixth.

Nickolette Ferguson  pitched a complete-game victory against the Hilltoppers.

“Nickolette is a fantastic pitcher,” Stevens said, “and she always pulls through when we need her.”

Ferguson gave up seven hits, walked two and struck out three – an impressive outing after Science Hill’s first three batters of the game all hit the ball hard.

“They jumped on the first pitch,” Jenkins said. “After that I thought that she kind of settled down. She got her change-up going today and had it going pretty good. After the first inning, I thought she settled down and threw really well against a good, quality team and the wind blowing out up here — and it being Senior Day and Mia’s as good a player as there is in this area.

“I’m proud of her. She’s had a little tough luck here the last couple times out.”

Stevens went 2-for-3 with two runs and three RBIs.

“She’ll tell you she’s been struggling in the conference and been taking too many pitches,” Jenkins said. “We want her driving in runs and today she drove in three – with a big home run.

“If we can get her going behind our others, I like our lineup.”

Ackerman was 2-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs. Hubbard was also 2-for-3 and Jaycie Jenkins and Ferguson were each 2-for-4.

Seven of Boone’s 11 hits came during the sixth.

“We were punching each other in the mouth for five innings,” Science Hill manager Bob Dempsey said. “and then they just got out there and started squaring it up. I mean anything we threw in there they hit it. And we hadn’t been hit like that all year long. Sometimes you just tip your hat to ‘em and say, ‘Okay, you did a great job.’”

Boone’s defense was also impressive. Jenkins, a sophomore shortstop, made a backhanded pickup on a sharply hit ball by Powell look easy before making a strong, accurate throw for the assist.

“I thought our kids really played well,” Jenkins said, “and came back against a good ball club.”

The ‘Blazers recorded wins over the weekend in the Tiny Day tournament against Sullivan East (4-0), West Greene (9-1), Johnson County (1-0) and Hampton (12-0). Ackerman pitched a two-hit shutout against East and Ferguson pitched a three-hit shutout against Johnson County.

Savannah Russell returned from an ankle injury to get the win against West Greene, a game that included a three-run double from Stevens. Russell’s return helps on the mound and even more, in the short run, at the plate.

“Savannah had some mound time this past weekend,” Jenkins said, “but the most important thing is we are trying to get her timing back at the plate.”

Ackerman was 2-for-2 with three RBIs against Hampton.

Through 35 games, Ferguson was leading Boone with a .404 average. Ackerman (.380), Ashley Starnes (.372) and Jenkins (.363) were also among the top four.

Ackerman (29) and Ferguson (28) were Nos. 1 and 2 in RBIs, and Ackerman had a team-high six home runs.

Ferguson was 13-5 on the mound with a 1.48 ERA. Ackerman was 9-5 with a 2.43 ERA.