By Douglas Fritz
Press Sports Writer
When it comes to Region 1-AAA baseball titles, Science Hill and Dobyns-Bennett have enjoyed a vice grip on things.
For the last nine years, either the Hilltoppers or Indians have won the championship. D-B won it last year, and claimed three straight titles from 2004-06. Science Hill had a five-title streak inbetween.
The two rivals are back in the region semifinals for the third straight season, and they will be in action today with both games starting at 7 p.m. District 1-AAA champion Science Hill plays host to Sevier County while the Indians travel to face District 2 champion Morristown West.
The games are part of the last week of a season-long battle to get to Murfreesboro for next week's Spring Fling, the TSSAA's five-sport state championship chase.
Baseball and softball require wins today and in Friday's sectional round while Wednesday's region championship determines home-field advantage for the sectional.
Here's a sport-by-sport look at what's on the schedule for area teams in baseball, softball, soccer and tennis:
Sevier County (31-8) at Science Hill (30-7) — The Hilltoppers showed a lot of resiliency bouncing back from a winners' bracket final blowout loss to D-B, and then beating the Tribe twice to win the district title.
Pitching has been the calling card all season for the Hilltoppers, who have allowed three runs or less 24 times in their 38 games — which includes one tie.
Sevier County is 5-4 in its last nine games after winning 26 of its first 30 contests.
Dobyns-Bennett (29-6) at Morristown West (25-8) — The Indians have standout pitching, too, but could pay dearly for their doubleheader loss to the Hilltoppers.
Before giving up seven runs to Sevier County in the District 2-AAA title game, West's pitching staff had allowed just six runs in its nine previous games.
South Greene (10-16) at Elizabethton (25-10) — The Rebels weren't supposed to be here, but clipped Grainger in the losers' bracket final of the District 2-AA tournament. They advanced to the region despite giving up 30 runs in five district games.
The Cyclones rode through District 1-AA without a loss, and have won 19 of their last 21 games. In that stretch, they have averaged 10.4 runs per game.
Unicoi County (23-8) at Greeneville (22-11) — This is a challenge for the Blue Devils as the Greene Devils have hit a stride with 14 wins in their last 16 games.
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils have lost four of their last seven games. However, the equalizer could be left-handed pitcher Jonathan Davis, who recorded 15 strikeouts against a good-hitting Sullivan East team in last week's district tournament.
Class A — North Greene, with sophomore standout Tyler Bailey likely on the mound, is a heavy favorite against Hancock County.
On the road, Unaka might have a bigger challenge. However, the Rangers still enter as the favorite — having beaten Cosby three times this season.
Jefferson County (23-15) at Daniel Boone (35-6) — The Trailblazers took care of district business for the fifth straight year, but a challenge awaits.
Jeff County pitcher Randi Hill is part of a Patriots' pitching staff that has allowed one run or less 22 times this season. In the Lady Patriots' last 10 games, they have lost 1-0 four times and won 1-0 once.
However, Boone has been stingy with the runs, too, allowing just four in four district tournament wins while scoring 35.
The other Class AAA semifinal has Dobyns-Bennett in a big underdog role against Seymour, which has allowed just 14 runs in its last 18 games — including five consecutive shutouts and seven in the last eight games.
Grainger (33-13) at Unicoi County (34-5) — The Lady Blue Devils have won 17 straight games, and have been superb in the circle and at the plate.
Unicoi has allowed just 12 runs in its last 13 games while scoring 121.
Grainger started the season with 15 straight wins, but has gotten off course a little. The Lady Grizzlies have lost five of their last eight games, but two losses were to Greeneville and two others were against Class AAA region qualifiers Jefferson County and D-B.
Elizabethton (22-12) at Greeneville — The Lady Cyclones have lost five of their last eight games, but they still boast a very dangerous batting order. They will likely need their best hitting eye against Greeneville's standout sophomore pitcher, Jordan Fortel. Greeneville won the Region 1-AA title last year, behind Fortel, ending Unicoi's long streak of titles.
Class A — University High enters as a sizable favorite over Washburn as District 1 has held a big advantage over District 2 teams. A District 2 team hasn't won a region game in over a decade.
That also means North Greene is a road favorite against Cosby.
Class AAA — Science Hill has gotten whipped twice by Dobyns-Bennett, and the likely result of a win Tuesday over Morristown West is another rematch with the Indians.
The Hilltoppers (14-5-1) will try to repeat their successful road trip to Morristown on April 19, where they earned a tough 1-0 victory.
Class A-AA — University High defeated Chuckey-Doak at home a little over a week ago, but the Junior Bucs will need another win over the Black Knights in Tuesday's semifinal to get to Thursday's regional title contest.
UH (12-2) has scored 100 goals in 14 games this season while holding its opponents to 25. Nine of those came in the loss to Greeneville, which plays host to Cosby in the other semifinal.
Class AAA — Area competitors will try to punch their individual tickets today at the Liberty Bell courts.
Science Hill's Leah Eddy is alive in girls singles while the Hilltoppers have a boys doubles team (Colin Ice, Thomas Young) and a girls double team (Katie Deal, Hope Forbush) still in the mix.
In team tennis, Science Hill's girls will play a sectional match this week while the boys are playing Morristown West in today's Region 1-AAA final after the conclusion of the individual tournament.
Class A-AA — Johnson County's Timmy Bellamy seeks a boys' singles title along with Unicoi's Conly Shults as the individual tournament gets under way today at Elizabethton.
Elizabethton has two boys doubles teams (Caleb Bailey-Nick Honeycutt and Joe Casey-Logan Birchfield) in the mix.
Sullivan East's Savanna Summers seeks a girls' singles title while Unicoi County's Mallory Jackson and Nela Holkova are in the girls' doubles mix along with Elizabethton's Christine Hardin and Hannah Hultshult.
In team tennis, Unicoi County's girls will play Christian Academy of Knoxville in a sectional match later in the week while Elizabethton has a home region match against Greeneville set for Tuesday.