This was expected to be a big year for softball in the Big 7 Conference, which boasted a pair of teams with strong state tournament hopes.

But the TSSAA was forced to end the season because of the coronavirus pandemic, and coaches were left to look back at their teams and some of the high expectations they had.

DANIEL BOONE

Picked as the Big 7 favorite by league coaches, the Lady Trailblazers opened the season with a win over Dobyns-Bennett.

Boone featured arguably the area’s top pitcher, senior Nickolette Ferguson, who tied for second in Northeast Tennessee with 145 strikeouts and was third in ERA (1.56) in 2019. Junior Dannah Persinger and sophomore Maggie Holman also throw heat and provide depth.

The Lady ’Blazers had power at the plate, evidenced in the win over D-B. Senior shortstop Jaycie Jenkins, Emma Robinette and freshman Maci Masters all hit home runs. Brylee Mesusan was also expected to be a top hitter.

Despite not having senior Greyson Stevens for the season because of a knee injury, Boone showed all the markings of a complete team. Standout defensive players outfielder McKenna Dietz, second baseman Makenna Dance and catcher Savannah Jessee braced the team, and Camryn Sarvis was known for coming up with big plays.

“Our group was really deep and we really liked our chances in the league,” Boone coach Jeremy Jenkins said. “We played Jefferson County twice last year and they won the state tournament. I know the (Catelyn) Riley girl was back, but I liked our chances. We were hoping to get to the substate and then we could knock on the door and get down there.”

SCIENCE HILL

While not as experienced as Boone, the Lady Hilltoppers were expected to challenge for the conference crown and be in position to compete for a state berth.

Junior Sejal Neas manned the circle and a trio of talented hitters — third baseman Jannon Glaspie, shortstop Bree Presnell and center fielder Abigail Taylor — ruled at bat.

Senior Shayna Price at second base led a solid defense. Zoey Cooper was at first base and sophomores Jaden Saults and McKenna Hoffman were expected to split time at catcher.

Senior Grace Anderson and freshman Brynne Goines shored up the outfield.

“Our team goal was to make the state,” Science Hill coach Jerry Higgins said. “Losing that game (2-1 to Morristown East in nine innings) in the region last year put a hunger in a lot of people. Position by position, we lost Kasey Bennett, Mackenzie Powell and Makenzie Smith, which were huge losses. But this team is probably the most solid team I’ve had in 21 years.”

DAVID CROCKETT

With pitcher Jenna Davis the team’s lone senior, the Lady Pioneers were picked fourth in the Big 7, but coach Carla Weems believes her team would have finished higher.

Weems pointed to a strong lineup that included center fielder Alyssa Suits, catcher Ashlyn Dulaney, third baseman Riley Hope and shortstop Mackenzie Baldwin. The infield also included junior Aubrey Burger at second base and sophomore Kennedy Broyles at first. Freshmen Sydney Newton and Kristen Lowry joined Suits in the outfield.

Broyles and Terra Fowler also gave Crockett depth in the circle.

“We are very young with only one senior, but our junior class is very strong,” Weems said. “We have a lot of power in our lineup, so I was looking forward to a great season. Boone and Science Hill might have had a little more experience and depth, but I felt defensive-wise and hitting-wise, we could play with any of them.”

DOBYNS-BENNETT

Lady Indians coach Andy Hubbard expected his young team, which had only two seniors and two juniors, to improve as the season wore on.

He was particularly excited about senior center fielder Evee Batisto, a three-year starter he described as the best defensive outfielder D-B has had in years. Pitching also appeared to be solid with Kassidy Miller in the circle.

Emma Allgood and Makaila Collier were to provide solid hitting and good defense, playing second and third base respectively. Kierstyn Judd started at catcher and freshman Savannah Hutchins was at shortstop.

Chloe Duncan and Natalie Mahaffey joined Batisto in the outfield, and Olivia Perkins-Henson, Addison Alder, Kaitlin Johnson and Maggie Seymore held the ability to contribute.

“We had four returning starters, but Evee moved to center and my shortstop went to third,” Hubbard said. “But they were a great bunch of kids who worked hard. I don’t know how we would have finished, but we would have gotten better. They worked too hard not to.”

VOLUNTEER

Volunteer coach Jackie Strickler believes his team, picked sixth in the Big 7, was severely underrated.

After all, the Lady Falcons had four seniors — pitcher Alli Chandler, catcher Myrtle Lawson, first baseman Brianna Wilson and right fielder Maggie Moseley — for a solid core, in addition to juniors Aliyah Crawley, a second baseman who hit nine home runs last season, and Kristen Kennedy in left field.

Sophomore outfielder Audrey Evans was another top hitter, and key freshmen included shortstop Kendra Huff, whom Strickler compared to former Lady Falcons standout Olivia Housewright, and third baseman Abbey Cradic. Kendra Roberts and Emily White were also expected to contribute.

“Alli was finally healthy this season and we were expecting big things from her,” Strickler said. “We were starting to see our freshmen coming together. Daniel Boone and Science Hill were the top teams going into the season, but I thought we could compete with everyone for that third spot.”

CHEROKEE

The youthful Lady Chiefs were showing promise early on, sporting a 2-1 record when the season ended.

Cherokee had just two seniors, Siera Light and Taylor Ward, but coach Kristen Richards saw the potential to carry on the program’s rich tradition of success.

Sophomore Samantha Tilson was the No. 1 pitcher and sophomore Lexi Elkins came on in relief. Juniors Meredith Owen and Audrey Mowell were the top hitters.

The starting lineup showed freshmen Hannah Bates and Kodi Henson at catcher and first, Mowell at second and sophomores Haley Vigil at shortstop and Bailee Hamilton at third.

Freshman Mackenzie Lawson was to join Owen and Light in the outfield, although junior Katie Rosenbaum was expected to be back from injury before the season ended.

“We were young but very talented,” Richards said. “Our motto for the season was ‘Readiness has no season.’ We started a little rough in our first game, but I thought it was nerves. Once we got over that hump, I thought a team goal was winning half the conference games. I have no doubt we would have gotten to that point and been ready for the postseason.”