no avatar

Abrupt end for Watauga Valley softball season of high hopes

Jeff Birchfield • May 2, 2020 at 2:45 PM

Two Carter County teams were expected to battle it out for the Watauga Valley Conference softball crown, and both had clear goals of making it much further down the road.

Starting with Unaka, which was aiming for a fourth straight berth in the TSSAA Class A tournament, here is a team-by-team look at what might have been had the season not been derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.


Lady Rangers coach Kenneth Chambers had a young squad, but he felt its power hitting was even better than the 2019 season.

Sophomore Sadie Shoun was Unaka’s ace, and Kayleigh Wilson and Trinity Bowers gave Unaka pitching depth.

Kendal Bare took over at catcher, backed up by Noel Collins. Alana Parsons was at first base, and freshmen Trinity Bowers (second base), Kylie Blevins (shortstop) and Haley Gilman (third base) joined her in the infield.

The team boasted more experience in the outfield, which featured senior Beth Lowe playing center field and senior Lily Kiser in right. Sophomore Kiki Forney patrolled left field.


Fielding possibly the best team in school history, conference and regional championships as well as a state tournament berth were among the Lady Highlanders’ goals for the season.

Senior Kenzie Birchfield was expected to be the league’s top pitcher, backed up by Karah Fields. Most of the players also were on Cloudland’s basketball team and the chemistry was there.

The infield included Kaylen Fields catching and Karah Fields at first base. Krisi Bare manned second base, Jasmine Birchfield was at shortstop and Leah Birchfield was at third base.

An athletic outfield featured Heaven Caraway in left field, Marlee Hughes in center field and Gracie Freeman in right field. Taylor Hicks added power as the flex hitter.


The Lady Golden Raiders returned seven starters and were hopeful for a promising season.

Leadoff batter Kaitlyn Lemmons (second base), Kendall Nash (catcher) and Alexis Lipoma (shortstop) were considered key offensive players.

Pitcher Makayla Estep was a top defensive standout, along with Maci Clark at third base and Elaina Gilliam at first. Three Crawford girls, all unrelated — Autumn in left field, Lilly in center and Presley in right — provided speed in the outfield.

Freshman Caden Bayless was also expected to pitch a lot of innings.


The Lady Bucs fielded a young team, but coach Keith Jeffers was eager to see just how far it could go.

Sophomore Avery Kibelbek, a two-time state champion wrestler for David Crockett, was the starting pitcher for University High.

Sierra Broome, at first base, was the team’s lone senior. Ryleigh Owen started at catcher, and Katy Stancil (second base), Emily Morgan (shortstop) and Alaina Abla (third base) handled the other spots in the infield.

Aly Abla, Alaina’s sister, was starting in left field. Cyndia Dobbins was penciled in at center field and Catie Leonard was positioned in right.


More than wins and losses, competitive outings and small victories along the way were the Lady Bulldogs’ goals for this season. Winning a play, winning an inning and eliminating errors were some of the minor victories coach Chelsey Weddle was seeking. Hampton showed that over its first three games, Weddle said.

Junior Bailey Andrews handled the pitching duties and Madison Setlock was her catcher. Six juniors were in the starting lineup, including Destini Milhorn at first base, Sophie Cable at second base, Sara Orr at shortstop, Shae Maslin in left field and Paige Knight in center.

Right fielder Bella Brown joined Setlock as sophomore starters, and freshman Rachel Fair took the field at third base.

The site administrator has disabled comments for this story.