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Three Rivers softball teams had big expectations for 2020 campaign

Jeff Birchfield • May 1, 2020 at 10:00 AM

The Three Rivers Conference was expected to feature plenty of depth as several softball teams had dreams of deep postseason runs. Those dreams were dashed with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s a team-by-team look starting with league favorites Unicoi County and Sullivan East.

UNICOI COUNTY

The traditional power started out 1-1 with a loss to Sullivan East and a win over Sullivan Central.

Senior Abbie Grindstaff was in the circle for the Lady Blue Devils with sophomore Hannah Shelton a capable reliever.

There was plenty of power in senior catcher Bella Bogart and juniors Caroline Podvin at first base and Samantha Chavez at second base.

Shortstop Betsabe Chavez and third baseman Kiley Bennett shored up the infield defensively.

The outfield consisted of senior Kayla Street in left field and Ashtan Vance in right with Allison Hensley and Leah Edney splitting time in center field. Others expected to contribute included Kerstin Buchanan, Kaylee Lamb and Rachel Hatcher.

SULLIVAN EAST

Picked as the preseason favorite, the Lady Patriots had the goal of a conference title and getting to the state tournament.

Jillian Shackleford, a pitcher and right fielder, and third baseman Cayden Bawgus led the group of hitters. Others expected to excel at the plate included second baseman Emma Timbs and shortstop Kinzie Brown.

Cassie Littleford was the starting catcher with Katie Botts at first. Hannah Scott hit at the flex spot when she wasn’t pitching. The outfield consisted of left fielder Autumn Moore, Morgan Bringman at center and Lexie McDuffie at right.

ELIZABETHTON

The Lady Cyclones split a pair of games to start the year, but that included a loss to state power Grainger. They competed most of the game with Madisun Pritchard starting at pitcher. Maddie O’Quinn and Grace Martin gave Elizabethton some pitching depth.

Elizabethton was swinging the bat well early as freshman catcher Kennedy Harris batted .500 and senior first baseman Marley Wagner was hitting over .400. O’Quinn, Pritchard and Ember Jensen filled the middle infield at second and shortstop — depending on who was pitching — with Kalista Deprimo at third base.

Kaylen Shell, Maggie Johnson and Cheyenne Poiroux were hard-hitting outfielders with Emmagrace Wilson at the flex.

SULLIVAN SOUTH

The Lady Rebels got off to a 1-2 start, but were expected to compete with the top teams.

Top pitcher Nicole Troutman was injured in basketball, but was expected to be back if the season had played out. Tara Shively gave South another good arm in the circle.

The solid infield had McKenzie Wallen at catcher, Susie Chapman at first base, Katie Conkin at second, Bradlee Warner at shortstop and Allison Chapman at third.

Center fielder Makkenzie Compton was lauded for her play in the field as well as her bat. Other starters included Macy Ellis in left field and Emma Jones in right field.

JOHNSON COUNTY

Scheduled to host the District 1-AA tournament, the Longhorns started off the year 2-0 and owned a win over league favorite Sullivan East.

Talented freshmen Hannah Fritts and Austin Lewis were leading Johnson County’s efforts, along with senior Hannah Brooks.

Brooks, the starting third baseman, was also one of the team’s top hitters, along with first baseman Natalie Winters and shortstop Maddi Edington. Emmy Miller proved to be a top defensive catcher, while second baseman Faith Walsh rounded out the infield.

Outfielders included Hailey Cox, Abby Cornett, Cassidy Lakataos and Alexis Hendley. Seniors Tiffany Price and Diamond Dibble were also looked at as key contributors.

HAPPY VALLEY

Junior Abby Holt brought the Lady Warriors plenty of experience in the circle with Olivia Absher serving as the key reliever.

Happy Valley, with second baseman Claire Johnson the lone senior, expected to get better as the year progressed.

Maddie Lingerfelt was the starting catcher with Cierra Southerland and Teagan Ray to split time at first base. Absher was at shortstop when not pitching with Ally Grindstaff at third base.

Reagan Street also played some third base and outfield, while Blakelee Ollis was at left field with Casey Campbell in center field and Laura Rice in right.

SULLIVAN CENTRAL

Lady Cougars coach Andrea Werner was looking forward to seeing the underclassman step up and release their potential, as well as the huge roles of seniors Sydney Snapp, Courtney Willis and Nicole Stidham.

Snapp was the starting pitcher, Stidham was at left field, while Willis was a three-time, all-conference first baseman.

Juniors made up the rest of the defense with Taylor Roller at catcher, Alyssa Madison at second base, Jasmine Sheffield at short stop and Kylie Harrison at third base. Katie Horne and Gracie Roller joined Stidham in the outfield. Sophomore Rachel White was the flex hitter.

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