KINGSPORT, Tenn. – Lindsay Dean faced plenty of challenges Friday afternoon.
She’s starting on the varsity level as a ninth grader, playing the same position as the best softball player in school history and received the starting assignment in the circle in just her second varsity game against a bigger school from Northeast Tennessee.
Dean just smiled when asked about all the responsibilities and possible pressure.
“Very interesting,” Dean said. “I’ve never really played at this level before. It’s pretty cool being a freshman pitcher.”
It turned into a real cool day for the Blue Knights’ youngster in the opening game of the Eastman Invitational.
Dean yielded just two hits and struck out six over four innings as Coeburn collected a 7-4 victory over Sullivan East at Domtar Park.
Dean will split the duties in the circle with teammate Lindsay Lawson this spring as the duo takes over for the graduated and record-setting Hannah Light.
Light struck out over 1,000 batters and led the Knights to two state tournament appearances during her four-year prep career and is now playing at Mars Hill (N.C.) College, where she is 4-4 with a 2.51 ERA.
Dean exhibited a plus change-up and performed well against the Patriots.
“Dean did a pretty good job today,” said Coeburn coach Suzi Atwood. “She’s got to hit her spots a little better. She’s been working on [her change-up]. She did fine today. … She’s going to have to step it up. There’s no time to be a freshman, when you’re the starting [pitcher] today.”
Dean allowed consecutive RBIs to East’s Angel Trent and Madeline Standbridge in the opening inning. Yet, the newcomer responded by retiring the next seven batters.
“[Nerves] weren’t bad. It was just like, it was really cold and I’m not used to everything,” Dean said. “The team backed me up on that one.”
Samantha Cole had two hits for Coeburn, including an inside-the-park home run.
“We all work together really good,” Cole said. “We’ve been together for years. We have good teamwork.”
Coeburn overcame an early 2-1 deficit and scored in every inning. While Light is gone, Coeburn should still be a factor in the Region D title race.
“Well, they are a spunky little bunch,” Atwood said. “I think we’re going to be fine. We just need to get some playing time in. We haven’t been out much and haven’t faced many pitchers.”
Holston 8, South Doyle 1
Holston won three of its four games in last year’s Eastman Invitational. The Cavaliers got off to a strong start in this year’s event, riding a seven-run first inning to a victory over South Doyle.
“I love to have seven runs in the first inning,” said Holston coach Lisa Blackburn. “I enjoyed seeing them hit the ball hard and actually hit it off a live arm instead of a pitching machine or me [or the assistant coaches]. I was real excited about how they came out and were aggressive.”
Holston sent 11 hitters to the plate and rapped out seven hits in the opening inning barrage. Taylor Doss’ towering two-run homer was the defining blow.
“All week in practice we’ve been working on rotating my hips and not lunging for the ball,” Doss said. “And finally, [Blackburn] said just stay back and just use your hips and not think about it. And there it went.”
Holston entered last year’s Eastman Invite under the radar, but after the Cavaliers reached the VHSL Group A championship game, the Cavs are one of the teams to watch in the 2011 Eastman Invitational.
“It’s a little bit different when you kind of have a target on your back and people are wanting to beat you,” Blackburn said. “I tell the girls that everybody’s going to bring their best game for us, and we’ve got to be ready to bring our best game to everybody. It pushes them to work harder and realize they have to play harder every game.”