BY JOE BYRD
ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
ERWIN -- Greeneville made history Wednesday night, and the Lady Devils did it in dramatic fashion.
The Lady Devils claimed their first region softball championship, ending Unicoi County's 14-year run as the best Class AA softball team in Northeast Tennessee.
Not only did Greeneville wrestle the region crown away from Unicoi County, the Lady Devils won a thriller, getting a strong defensive performance all around and riding a two-out RBI double by freshman Lorena Leon to a 3-2 9-inning triumph.
"To come here and beat a storied program like that, the game was incredible. Anybody that knows this game, they saw a great one today," said Greeneville coach Bob Fortel. "This was a nail biter. These kids are tough. They play defense. They play together. We get hits when we need hits. I'm just so proud I can't stand it."
Greeneville held a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh thanks to an amazing double play turned by senior Chandler Christopher from right field to end the sixth frame.
Unicoi County manufactured a run in the seventh to tie the game and send it into extra innings. With two away in the top of the ninth, Leon capped her 3-for-4 performance with the biggest hit of the game, a double to center that put Greeneville up 3-2 and on course for the region title.
"We trust our freshmen," Fortel said. "They work hard in practice. They listen. I'd put them up against any senior out there. They do a great job."
Freshman pitcher Jordan Fortel was strong the entire way, throwing five strikeouts and allowing one earned run.
Unicoi County took an early lead when Chelsey Gardner created an unearned run in the first inning. Greeneville got out of the second without giving up a run, ending it on a double play turned by Leon at second and shortstop Madison Rambo.
Rambo, a senior, had a strong defensive effort for Greeneville, playing a part in nine putouts.
Unicoi County's inability to get past Greeneville's defense opened the door for Greeneville to take the lead with a two-run fourth.
Fortel led off by beating out a bunt. Sarah Luttrell hit a single into center field that Unicoi County couldn't corral, allowing Fortel to score and tie the game. Hope Ottinger put Greeneville ahead, getting down in the count early before fighting it off with a string of foul balls then hitting a RBI single to right to make it 2-1.
That's where it stayed thanks to Greeneville's defense. Fortel got the Lady Devils out of the fifth with a runner on third with a great strikeout. They escaped the sixth on Christopher's double play.
With one out and a runner on third, Christopher made a catch in right for the second out then fired a rocket to the plate for Ottinger to tag out the runner and keep Greeneville in the lead.
Unicoi County managed to score a run in the bottom of the seventh but was denied a walkoff win. With two away and a runner on third, Rambo came up with a huge catch on a line drive into the gap to send the game into extra innings and set up the dramatic finish.
Greeneville (27-1) had 10 hits in the game, led by Leon's 3-for-4 effort. Ottinger had two base hits. Ottinger also had a key putout, gunning down Unicoi's Cassie Foster when she tried to steal second with none out in the eighth inning.
Unicoi County (42-8) had eight hits. Tiffany Laughren hit a double and triple. Jessica Presser was 3-for-3.
The win for Greeneville means the Lady Devils will not only play in Sub-State for the first time in history, they will host on Friday.
Greeneville takes on Region 2 runnerup CAK on Friday at 2 p.m. at Hardin Park.
GHS AB R H UC AB R H
Rambo,ss 5 0 0 Gardner,cf 4 1 0
Darnell,3b 4 0 1 L'ghren,dp 4 0 2
Fortel,p 3 1 1 Pearson,1b 3 0 1
Luttrell,1b 4 1 1 Foster,pr 0 0 0
Fillers,dp 4 0 1 Delffs,rf 4 0 0
Lowery,pr 0 0 0 N'chlsn,lf 4 0 0
Ottinger,c 4 0 2 Starnes,c 4 0 1
Ford,cr 0 1 0 Presser,ss 3 1 3
Chr'stphr,rf 2 0 0 Shelton,3b 3 0 0
L.Leon,2b 4 0 3 Goddard,2b 4 0 1
S.Leon,cf 4 0 1 Silvers,p 0 0 0
Cutshaw,lf 0 0 0
TOTALS 32 3 10 TOTALS 33 2 8
2b hits: GHS - Leon. UC - Laughren. 3b hits: UC - Laughren. WP: Fortel. LP: Silvers.
Score by innings:
Greeneville 000 200 001 -- 3 10
Unicoi County 100 000 100 -- 2 8