By Jeff Keeling
In a clash of conference front-runners Monday, a young University High softball team proved its mettle when its lone senior, Mollee Cohee, stepped to the plate with the bases loaded, two outs, and the score knotted at 6 against North Greene.
Fittingly for senior night, Cohee proved the difference-maker at Betty Basler Field, drawing a walk to bring Abbie Jones home from third in what coach Keith Jeffers described as, “a crazy game.”
In addition to drawing the crucial walk, Cohee had two hits in a balanced offensive attack. Leadoff hitter Madi Freeman reached base three times and scored each time. Molly Dison had a crucial two-run hit early in the game, and Lexi Crouthers went the distance on the mound, overcoming some defensive lapses.
It put a team depleted by the loss of seniors and transfers after last season’s state tournament run in a strong position as the district and regional playoffs approached. The Lady Bucs improved to 8-1 in the Watauga Valley Conference and dropped North Greene to 8-2. The team followed the tense victory with a 17-0 thumping of Cloudland in Roan Mountain Tuesday night to claim the conference crown outright.
“They came together when it counted,” Jeffers said of his young team, which includes two starters who hadn’t even played competitive softball prior to this season. The next step, he said, is to take care of business in the district tournament at South Greene beginning Saturday.
District Two shouldn’t pose a major problem if the girls play well, Jeffers said, giving the Lady Bucs a decent shot at reaching sectionals and a chance to repeat last year’s trip to Murfreesboro. In sectionals, should they get there, Jeffers expects a matchup with Oliver Springs, Grace Christian of Knoxville or last year’s opponent, Meigs County.
“Hopefully we can win district to get a one seed, and keep winning through the regionals to have a shot at hosting a sectional game,” Jeffers said.
Offense shouldn’t be the stumbling block in a lineup anchored by Cohee and sophomore Ari Ramsaran, he said. “Our problems have been consistency on defense. We’ve been hitting well the last couple weeks, and if we play a better game than we played tonight defensively, we’ve hung with pretty much everybody we’ve played.”
The Lady Bucs, who loaded their non-conference schedule with teams from much larger schools, were 14-18 overall heading into the Cloudland game.
Photos by Dakota Hamilton. See photo galleries at docophotography.com