KINGSPORT — Last year, Unicoi County’s softball team endured a 12-inning marathon against Cherokee to win the Eastman Invitational.
No such drama this time.
The Lady Blue Devils sprinted to a 10-0 win over Marion County on Sunday at the Eastman Softball Complex to win their second consecutive title.
Unicoi pounded out 11 hits in the four-inning contest, which stood in stark contrast to a grueling 2009 title game in which neither team scored in the first nine innings.
With last year’s 4-2 duel in mind, Unicoi coach Grady Lingerfelt was almost at a loss for words after his team dismissed the Lady Warriors so quickly.
“I didn’t expect it to be so easy, to be honest with you,” he said.
After losing five starters off last year’s team, Lingerfelt had five freshmen in the starting lineup Sunday. Unicoi County didn’t miss a beat.
The Lady Blue Devils plated a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the first inning before exploding for six more in the third when they batted around.
Freshman Shea Pearson blasted a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the fourth and Kelsey Peterson scored on an RBI single by Whitney Webb moments later to end the game.
With star pitcher Kara Woods fighting fatigue in her sixth start of the weekend, Lingerfelt said the two early runs eased some of the pressure.
“That was big,” he said. “It lifted our spirits and let us know we could win.”
Woods (21-1) scattered five hits over four innings of scoreless work to pick up the win. She also earned tournament MVP honors for her efforts.
Even though Woods was the winning pitcher in the title game for the second year in a row, she might have made her biggest play of the weekend at the plate.
After trailing Dobyns-Bennett in the semifinals, Woods hit the eventual game-winning three-run homer that put Unicoi into the championship game.
“We got down big time in the Dobyns-Bennett game and I just asked them to get one run an inning,” Lingerfelt said. “Then the bats got going and it all fell in place for us.”
Pearson, Chelsey Gardner and Emilee Lovette each drove home two runs for Unicoi (23-1) in the title game. Gardner and Ashley Starnes joined Woods on the all-tournament team, and Cassi Pickett and Hannah Morrison represented Marion County.
D-B wound up finishing fourth, but coach Andy Hubbard was impressed with his team’s effort.
The Tribe knocked off a talented Lafayette, Ky., team in the quarterfinals, and Ashley Christian and Makenzie Lilley were both all-tournament selections.
“I think it helped us,” Hubbard said. “We played some pretty good teams, especially today.”
Daniel Boone placed sixth, but also found plenty of positives to take away from the weekend.
Kellie Waycaster filled in nicely for injured ace Cora Baker, who likely will return to action this week, and Jennine Duncan made the all-tournament team.
“I asked them if we are better now than we were at 3 p.m. on Friday, and we are,” Boone coach Rick Wagner said. “You come here to get better and we did.”
Volunteer finished eighth after fatigue got to the best of the Lady Falcons’ pitching staff, but coach Jackie Strickler came away feeling good about his team. He said his players left it all on the field.
“Everybody played hard and we’re going to be a better team because of this,” he said. “They laid it on the line every game, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Ashley Lindholm made the all-tournament team.