Front row, L-R: Jenna Horner, Alexis Hendley, Lindsey Wills, Natalie Winters, Emmy Miller, Abby Cornett, and Bella Miller. Second row, L-R: Tiffany Price, Cassidy Lakatos, Maddie Edington, Diamond Dibble, Hannah Brooks, and Jayla Gregg. Back row, L-R: Faith Walsh, Haley Cox, Hailey Rider, Sydney Potter, Morgan Murwin, Sarah Rider and Kirsten Day. Photo by Scoop Christian

By Scoop Christian

It’s been an uphill battle for the Lady Longhorns on the softball diamond for the past few years but all that could change in 2019. Johnson County will have a new skipper at the controls but one that has enjoyed a ton of success at the Junior High Level.
Greg Reece has stepped into the head coaching role after guiding the middle school team for nearly a decade. His teams won the championship tournament last year, and all of the current players have performed under his guidance.
Reece is a workaholic having already done a lot of work to improve the playing field that includes a new warning track. He’s a hoping that his squad that returns eight starters can make like Stella and find their groove to compete with the likes of Elizabethton and Unicoi County.
“There is no doubt that our league is very good from top to bottom,” he said at a recent home basketball game. “Everyone has to go through Unicoi and Elizabethton to get down the road.”
Reece could have the talent to do just that if the cards will line up right. The team was in several close ball games last year, and he’s hoping that can change this time around.
“Last year’s team lost nine games by two runs or less. The defense was not bad at all, but we’ve have set a goal of allowing one less run per game and part of that is having the players in position to make plays and pitching to our strengths. But we can really impact our level of success by being better at the plate and on the bases. The players have really bought into what we did previously at JCMS with an aggressive attitude on the bases and a willingness to embrace the short game. You have to score runs because they don’t appear on the scoreboard manually. You have to manufacture them.
Reece has a few hitters that can put some points on the board.

JCHS Softball Schedule 2019

March
12 at Unicoi 5:30 Varsity, JV
14 Sullivan East 5:30 Varsity, JV
15 Unicoi Tournament 5:30 JV only
16 Unicoi Tournament TBA JV only
19 at Sullivan Central 5:30 Varsity, JV
21 Elizabethton 5:30 Varsity, JV
22 East Tenn Classic TBA Varsity
23 East Tenn Classic TBA Varsity, JV
24 Conf. JV Tournament TBA JV@EHS
25 at University School 5:00 Varsity
29 at Hampton 5:30 Varsity, JV

APRIL
2 at Happy Valley 5:30 Varsity, JV
4 UNICOI 5:30 Varsity, JV
5 NFS Tournament 5:30 Varsity
6 NFS Tournament TBA Varsity
8 SULLIVAN SOUTH 5:30 Varsity, JV
9 at Sullivan East 5:30 Varsity, JV
11 Sullivan Central 5:30 Varsity, JV
12 at Northwood, Va. 5:00 Varsity
16 at Elizabethton 5:30 Varsity, JV
18 at Sullivan South 5:30 Varsity, JV
19 Hodge JV Tournament TBA JV@EHS
20 Hodge JV Tournament TBA JV@EHS
23 HAMPTON (Senior Night) 5:00 Varsity, JV
26 Tiny Day Tournament TBA Varsity, JV
27 Tiny Day Tournament TBA Varsity, JV
28 Tiny Day Tournament TBA Varsity, JV
30 HAPPY VALLEY 5:30 Varsity, JV

May
1 Play-in date (#6 vs. #7) TBA if needed
2 District Tourn. @ Sullivan E. TBA
3 District Tourn. @ Sullivan E. TBA
6 District Tourn. @ Sullivan E. TBA
7 District Tourn. @ Sullivan E. TBA
8 District Tourn. @ Sullivan E. TBA 13 Regional Playoffs TBA Top two teams from
15 Regional Playoffs TBA District advance
21 State Tournament TBA

Key Returning players
The Longhorns return one of Northeast, Tennessee’s better players in Hannah Brooks. The junior slugger was intentionally walked 27 times last year and is a threat to hit the ball out of the park every time up. She’ll also be the ace pitcher as well.
“We have to make teams pay when they do that. We have several players that can hit for power and we have some that can hit for average. We also got some that can excel with the short game or winning the bases. We coaches have to find the right combinations.”
The right side of the infield could be what Reece is looking for, and his starting sophomore catcher has the talent to play at the next level.
Emmy Miller is the team’s best athlete and can play several positions and can play them well. She will start behind the plate after hitting .402 last year.
Junior, Natalie Winters gets the nod at first base after hitting over .350 a year ago from her leadoff spot. She could be one to protect Brooks from being walked.
Lindsey Wills, one of two seniors on the team will play beside Winters at second base. Wills batted .300 last year and was the team’s leading hitter over the first half of it.
Sophomores Maddie Edington and Alexis Hendley will roam the other side of the infield at shortstop and third base.
The outfield will be built around junior speedster Abby Cornett who has proven to be one of the top defensive players in the conference. Senior Bella Miller will handle the left field duties while a much improved Diamond Dibble; a junior will likely get the nod in right or sophomore Cassidy Lakatos.
“Hendley and Lakatos are skilled utility players so they will likely play several spots,” added Reece. “Jayla Gregg, Hailey Cox, and Faith Walsh are all looking promising and could see some time on the field as freshmen. Miller will pitch some and Brooks will handle third base when that happens. Junior Tiffany Price is another versatile player who has worked hard and will and some much-needed depth to the team.

Freshman class
looks promising
Reece has some talented freshman on the team that includes Hailey Rider, Kirsten Day, Sarah Rider, Sydney Potter and Morgan Murwin in addition to Gregg, Cox, and Walsh.
That’s why Reece has scheduled a boatload of junior varsity games to get playing time for everyone on the roster. A few could pull some double duty as spot players on the varsity.

Final comments
from the coach
“Our two seniors, Wills, and Bella Miller will be outstanding leaders on this team,” added Reece. “They have shown that in our offseason workouts. Dibble is one of our most improved players. Our infield is very athletic, and our defensive strength lies in our outfield. Miller and Edington are our two best at their positions but might be even better at other positions.
Reece will be assisted by Emily Elliott Harrison and former Unaka Lady Rangers’ player who teaches criminal justice at JCHS. Abby Reece will also be on the staff, her fourth consecutive season helping her dad along with Robert Wills, who has coached baseball and softball for years and is also a Tennessee State Trooper. The younger Reece is a graduate student at ETSU.