BlueCross Spring Fling heats up for area teams

Maryville freshman Payton Robinette lines up a squarely-struck backhand.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

Maryville freshman Payton Robinette lines up a squarely-struck backhand.

The 2011 BlueCross Spring Fling didn’t play to the opening Blount County would have hoped Tuesday afternoon.

The Maryville High School baseball and softball teams both fell in openers of their respective state tournaments. The Lady Rebels, who fell, 6-1, to 2009 Class AAA state champion Riverdale, were looking to stave off elimination against Bolton as Blount Today went to press Wednesday afternoon.

The Rebels, back in the state tournament since Maryville won it all in 1989, were bested by Columbia, 8-1, on Tuesday. An elimination contest with Arlington awaited early Wednesday.

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s season-ending state championships for baseball, softball, tennis, boys soccer and track and field goes fully active today, with all five sports in play. With the Olympic-style event scheduled to conclude Saturday, Blount County’s best hope for a spring state title rests on the shoulders of Maryville sprinter and recent University of Tennessee signee Julia Petree.

The Blount Today Female Athlete of the Year entered the state meet with the fastest sectional qualifying time for the 400 meters, an event the Lady Rebel senior won two seasons ago, finishing second last spring.

With a second-best qualifying mark in the 100, third at 200 meters, the future Lady Vol appears a strong threat there as well. William Blount sophomore Brooke Butterworth constitutes the remainder of Blount County’s Class AAA girls’ field competing individually. The Lady Rebels also qualified their 4x100-, 4x200- and 4x400-meter relays.

William Blount junior Micah Williamson, 110 hurdles, and Maryville sophomore Mathew Warriner, 800 meters, constitute Blount County’s lone state meet qualifiers in the boys AAA field. Alcoa’s Tornadoes will see their 4x200 and 4x400 relays compete for medals in the A/AA meet.

Girls finals and boys preliminaries are scheduled this afternoon, with boys finals slated for Friday.

Blount County finds itself in likely unprecedented territory when it comes to the state tennis tournament. Maryville has players through to today’s quarterfinals in both girls and boys singles. Rebel sophomore Yusuke Yodono and Lady Rebel freshman Payton Robinette both possess the all-court games that could land titles this week.

A sweep is a big task, but don’t count the Maryville duo out.

If they were able to fight off elimination Wednesday morning, the same, in a loud voice, could be said for Maryville’s softball and baseball teams.

Both reached the respective state tournaments on the strength of exceptional starting pitching and clutch hitting. Lady Rebel junior Allison Barbee, in her first year as the starter, compiled one of the state’s top earned run averages in pitching the Lady Rebels back to the state tournament for the first time in two seasons.

All-American junior shortstop Bry Blanco, sophomore catcher Haley Hilliard, junior Jessica Connatser and Barbee constitute a potent big four at the top of the batting order.

Rebel senior Andrew Bowerman outdueled Major League prospect Daniel Norris of Science Hill in a winner-take-all sectional contest last Friday in Johnson City. Junior Jacob West’s seventh-inning grand slam proved a telling blow in an 8-2 Maryville triumph.

The Rebels have displayed the necessary depth on the hill this season that it is going to take to battle their way through the loser’s bracket and reach Friday’s championship game at Middle Tennessee State University.

Few thought the 1989 Rebels would be around very long, either.

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