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Baseball, softball semifinals jump-start regional play in NE Tennessee

Douglas Fritz • May 14, 2018 at 1:24 AM

The Spring Fling is just a little over a week away, but that means the most treacherous and tense steps are ahead.

Their sights set on The ’Boro, Northeast Tennessee teams open regional competition this week, beginning with today’s semifinals in baseball and softball. The championships are set for Wednesday with sectional action slated for Friday.

The soccer semifinals are Tuesday, followed by championships Thursday and sectionals Saturday.

In tennis, the individual tournaments are scheduled for today with team sectional action later in the week.

Here’s a look at who’s favored to win each region:

BASEBALL

1-AAA

Science Hill has the look of a team that could reach the state tournament, but first the Hilltoppers must dispel history.

Science Hill’s record in the region tournament, dating all the way back to 2012, is just 1-5. The Hilltoppers were ousted in the region semifinals by Jefferson County (2012) and Sevier County (2013, 2014 and 2016) and lost in the region final to Dobyns-Bennett in 2015. Last year, they didn’t make it out of the district.

And this year’s opponent is no slouch. Jefferson County had two chances to reach the TSSAA Class AAA title game last year but lost twice to Stewarts Creek. This year’s team has won 10 of its last 12, including against Karns and Class AA power Gibbs.

Tennessee High has a good chance on the road against a Seymour team that got hot when the district started but has losses to Jefferson County, Science Hill, Daniel Boone and Unicoi County.

Having said all of that ...

Predicted champion: Science Hill.

1-AA

After blowing through the district tournament and outscoring its opponents by a combined 44-3 margin, Elizabethton has opened some eyes.

First up is West Greene, which has a good record at 22-8 but played eight nonconference games against Class A competition.

Unicoi County faces a Greeneville program that reached the state tournament in 2016 and missed by one game last year despite a 30-4 record. It’s a serious challenge, but the Blue Devils have the arms to give them a chance to win on the road.

Predicted champion: Elizabethton.

1-A

A very strong schedule that included Class AAA and Class AA opponents is one reason University High has a chance to continue making postseason noise.

The Buccaneers should be in good shape against Jellico, but North Greene could have a tough time taming Greenback on the road. That means UH would have to handle Greenback on the road Wednesday.

Predicted champion: Greenback.

SOFTBALL

1-AAA

Morristown East has only lost to Farragut, Daniel Boone and Jefferson County (three times) this season. So the Lady Hurricanes bring a 31-win team to Jonesborough to face a 33-win team in David Crockett.

It’s a dandy matchup that could go either way.

On the other side of the bracket, Cherokee visits Jefferson County in a decided underdog role — but the Lady Chiefs have been just fine in that position during the postseason.

Predicted champion: David Crockett.

1-AA

Before anybody pencils Elizabethton into the region finals, look back at the Eastman Invitational. Grainger shut out the Lady Cyclones 4-0 on a four-hitter by Emily Agee.

However, Greeneville scored a total of 15 runs and beat Agee twice on Thursday to win the 2-AA title. That victory earned the Lady Greene Devils a home game against Unicoi County, which is 35-5 against opponents not named Elizabethton — which has beaten Unicoi four times in five meetings.

Predicted champion: Elizabethton.

1-A

Just like in the district, Unaka is head and shoulders above the competition at the regional level.

But the Lady Rangers still have to take care of business, first against Greenback in the semifinals.

North Greene and Cosby should have quite a tussle in the other matchup.

Predicted champion: Unaka

SOCCER

1-AAA

Dobyns-Bennett has encountered little resistance thus far. The Indians have recorded 14 shutouts this season, including their last five games in a row.

They’ve rectified one of their two ties by whipping Science Hill twice since a 1-1 decision in late March.

Bearden, which meets the Hilltoppers in the semifinals, appears to be the most difficult challenge in the region for the Tribe.

Predicted champion: Dobyns-Bennett.

1-AA

There’s a showdown looming between Greeneville and unbeaten Sevier County.

Both must take care of semifinal opponents — Pigeon Forge for Greeneville and Sullivan South for Sevier — but those games aren’t expected to be tight.

Predicted champion: Sevier County

1-A

It’s all about Chuckey-Doak, or so it seems. The Black Knights should have little trouble with Gatlinburg-Pittman in the semifinals.

They would then likely face Alcoa in the finals, but University High can have a little something to say about that.

Predicted champion: Chuckey-Doak.

BOYS TENNIS

Large Division

Science Hill will have its hands full against a tough Bearden lineup, but the Hilltoppers do have a chance. Northeast Tennessee has been a powerhouse in team tennis for many years, winning 11 Class AAA titles in the last 16 years.

Small Division

It has been a storybook season for Sullivan North, but the Golden Raiders will really have to step things up when they take on L&N Stem Academy.

GIRLS TENNIS

Large Division

Dobyns-Bennett has put together quite a run, but the sectional step is usually a tough one. This year is no different with Oak Ridge or Knox Catholic standing in the Lady Indians’ way.

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