A strong defensive effort was all East Union needed, picking up four, one-run wins to sweep their slate in the Union County Tournament, winning their second title in three years.
“We won every game by one run, so what does that tell you?” Lady Urchin coach Josh Blythe said. “I’m proud of the kids; we made big plays, fought through several errors. We didn’t play great, but we just did enough to get it done.”
“Resiliency again, with our backs against the wall, we got it done, and I’m proud of them.”
East Union opened the tournament with two 1-0 victories over West Union and New Albany. Against the Lady Eagles, the game went to a deciding eighth inning where Alie Haynie plated Rebecca Shefiled to break the scoreless tie. Again in their game against New Albany, one run was all that was needed, as the Lady Urchins fought off a sixth inning rally that saw the Lady ‘Dawgs load the bases.
“Defense got going, and we got the outs when we needed them,” Blythe said. “We had several errors in that first game, kind of shaky. We had a bad game Friday night, and really, we field one hundred ground balls a day. Finally it just starts paying off and we get the big outs. The big hit girls had their big hits, but they hit it right to us, so it’s just us making the big plays.”
East Union’s biggest win came against Myrtle, where they rallied for the 6-5 win.
“Myrtle’s one of the top two or three teams we play this year, and they’re going to go far,” Blythe said. “They have a great group of girls, and their first five batters are as good as you’ll find. To beat them twice in one year is a big accomplishment. When it came down to that last inning and I had the top of my lineup up to bat, I told them, if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it again like we did last time. We got lucky again.”
Down 3-1 in the fifth, the Lady Urchins had back-to-back RBI triples from Rachel Elder and Ashley Leach that tied the game. Brittany Prewett gave East Union their first lead with her sacrifice fly out, but a double by Audrey Kent and a single by Meshay Cox in the sixth gave the lead back to Myrtle.
East Union had three straight hits to tie the game in the final inning, and with bases loaded, Stephanie Hardy brought in the game-winning run to clinch the championship for the Lady Urchins. East Union completed the sweep with a 4-3 win over Ingomar.
“We have one senior, and she wanted it bad,” Blythe said of Elder. “She didn’t have a hit in the first two games and she was down. She rallied back, and she’s a workhorse.”
“The first two games were intense and we came together and put our all into it. We just played good,” Elder added of winning the title.
Myrtle finished second at 3-1, picking up wins over Ingomar (10-2), West Union (9-0) and New Albany (9-8). The Lady Bulldogs completed the day at 2-2, followed by Ingomar at 1-3 and West Union at 0-4.
The wins were much needed for East Union, as they were 5-7 entering the tournament, but the constant hard work and evaluation from Blythe’s team came into play when they needed it the most.
“We’ve been struggling a lot,” he said. “We’ve been up and down and we’re about 9-7 now. We lost some bats and have struggled a lot, but the defense has picked it up. We’re piecing it together with each loss, evaluating what we’re doing wrong and trying to build on that.”
Elder put it best, as she now has two UCT titles to her credit.
“It’s the best thing ever.”
Union County Tournament results:
New Albany 5 Ingomar 2
Myrtle 10 Ingomar 2
New Albany 10 West Union 0
Myrtle 9 West Union 0
Ingomar 13 West Union 2
East Union 1 West Union 0
East Union 1 New Albany 0
East Union 6 Myrtle 5
East Union 4 Ingomar 3
Myrtle 9 New Albany8