Lady Cats put the squeeze on South, 3-2
The North Harrison Lady Cat softball team won its opening game of the season last week, beating South Central, 3-2, in a nail-biter that saw the visiting Lady Rebels commit late errors and North Harrison pull off a bold move.
‘It was interesting,’ said Lady Cat coach Ron Mitchell. ‘We did pretty good. It was the first game, and we were putting the bat on the ball.’
‘That’s what happens when you have inexperience,’ South Central coach Bob Zumar said. ‘It showed. They all got tight. They didn’t do the things they did the first six innings. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all from inexperienced ball players.’
The Lady Cats got on the board in the bottom of the third inning with Shayne Rhoads doing the damage.
Rhoads walked after Ashley Smith grounded out. She went to second on a Whitney Wetzel ground out, and then stole third with Charissa Brooks at bat. Brooks reached first on a South Central error. South overthrew at third on Rhoads, who went on to put the Lady Cats in front 1-0.
The Lady Rebels answered in the top of the fourth.
Brittany Tuell walked and Gabrielle Decker reached first on a North Harrison error. Allie Cook struck out, but Tuell moved to third as Candice Cartwright grounded out to second. With Sarah McCrocklin at bat, Tuell went home on a Lady Cat passed ball to tie the game.
After North Harrison went down in order in the bottom of the fourth, South Central used momentum from the previous inning to take the lead.
With one out, Samantha Troutman reached base on a dropped third strike, and Justine Huffman singled. Troutman stole third with Brittany Schoen at bat, and Huffman later advanced to second.
Tuell walked to load the bases with two outs, prompting North Harrison to switch pitchers, as Ashley Shumate took over.
Shumate lost control of one of her early tosses and Troutman scrambled across the plate to put the Lady Rebels in front, 2-1.
Everything was on the line for the Lady Cats in the bottom of the seventh, and Renee Sullivan gave North Harrison a good start with a single. She went to second on a passed ball and advanced to third on a Shumate ground out.
Rhoads hit a pop fly to second, but the ball fell from Cook’s glove. The error allowed Rhoads to reach first and Sullivan scored to tie the game.
With Wetzel at bat, Rhoads stole second and then went to third on another South Central error. That set up the game-winning squeeze play.
Brooks laid down a bunt along the third base line with Rhoads charging home. The throw to the place was late and Rhoads scored the winning run.
‘I put the squeeze on because they were telling them, ‘Be ready for her to swing,’ ‘ Mitchell said. ‘I had all that speed on third base, and she’s a smart runner. I knew if Brooks could get (the bunt) down, something was going to happen.’
Mitchell said he wasn’t worried when Rhoads got on base.
‘When I get Shayne on the base, she’s a speed demon.’ he said. ‘She can fly. She’s very aggressive on the bases. If you can get the ball in play from the next batter, she’s going to score. It made all the difference today.’
Zumar said his team lost its confidence in the last inning. That along with the errors proved costly, he said.
‘The last play was a play that should have gone to first base,’ Zumar said. ‘(Huffman’s) not our normal pitcher. She’s been playing for two years, so she should know. She just reacted.
‘Not using two hands cost us. The very basics is what we’re trying to teach these girls. We made some running mistakes and not just from new girls. That’s what got me upset. The new girls I can understand, but it wasn’t the new girls that made some of the mistakes in this game, running the bases. That’s what got me more riled.’
North Harrison recorded six hits, led by Sullivan, who went three for three, and made just one error. Brooks and Shumate combined for seven strikeouts and four walks.
‘Brooks, we’ve been pitching her quite a bit over the week, so I probably wore here out,’ Mitchell said. ‘Shumate came in and did a pretty good job. I thought Charissa did a good job. We’ve got to keep at it.’
The Lady Rebels got just three hits, all of those coming from their pitcher, Huffman. From the pitcher’s circle, Huffman kept the ball in play with her arm, walking just one batter while striking out one.
‘She did real well,’ Zumar said. ‘She had not pitched (much) since she had hurt her back last fall.’