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North Harrison takes care of Eastern, 6-3

North Harrison takes care of Eastern, 6-3
North Harrison takes care of Eastern, 6-3
North Harrison's Kyia Oppel put the tag on Eastern's Courtney Hoke when she tries to stretch a single into a double in the third inning. Photo by Wade Bell

The North Harrison Lady Cats used a big fourth inning to pull ahead of the visiting Lady Musketeers of Eastern (Pekin) last Tuesday afternoon to earn a 6-3 win in a Mid-Southern Conference softball contest. The win was a little costly for the Lady Cats, however, as Brittany Rudolph suffered a shin injury and had to sit out the remainder of the game. She was expected to return to the field this week.
‘It was a little costly,’ North Harrison coach Eric Pavey said. ‘We lost a good player, but she’ll come back. It’s just a good contusion, and she should be able to come back and help us out.’
The Lady Cats threatened to go on the board first in the bottom of the first inning as North Harrison rapped three hits. However, the Lady Cats failed to convert those into a run, leaving two of those runners on base.
Eastern failed to get a runner on board in its first two at-bats but finally scored in the top of the third. Becca Gilstrap reached first on a North Harrison error and went to second on a passed ball. Gilstrap came home on a Courtney Hoke single. Hoke tried to stretch the hit to a double but was tagged by the North Harrison defense.
North Harrison bounced right back in the bottom of the third to tie the game at 1. With one out, Jourdan McAfee ripped a shot that would go for a triple. Kaylin Bright followed that with a loop single to score McAfee. Kyia Oppel also singled, but the Lady Cats were unable to score as the game stayed tied.
The pressure increased for the Lady Cats as the Lady Musketeers went back in front in the top of the fourth inning. Kyana Watson popped up to first baseman Rudolph to begin the inning, but Rudolph and catcher Kaylin Bright collided hard along the first-base line. Rudolph, who also pitches, came up with a large hematoma on her shin, forcing her to sit out the remainder of the game with ice on her leg.
‘I caught her shin guard or something,’ Rudolph said.
‘You get worried when you lose somebody who’s been starting every ballgame for you,’ Pavey said. ‘But it’s almost a New England Patriots attitude, the next man up. Marlaina (Eveslage) is a senior. She’s been in the program for a while, and she stepped up and played a good first base for us when she needed to.’
The Lady Musketeers then tried to up the pressure by putting a second run on the board. Darcee Rogers walked, then Destiny Worley came in for base-running duties. Taylor Drury hit into a fielder’s choice and went to second on a Sam Montgomery single. Drury got a double pass with Gilstrap at the plate. Drury first stole second then a North Harrison passed ball allowed her to score, giving Eastern a 2-1 edge.
The Lady Cats regrouped and got to work in the bottom of the inning. Alaina Sears got things going with a lead-off double. Kodi House moved Sears over to third with a sacrifice bunt. Following a walk by Aspen Luther, McAfee was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs.
Eastern second baseman Gilstrap bobbled a Bright grounder for an error, allowing two runs to cross the plate. Oppel followed with a single to score McAfee and Bright for a 5-2 lead. Kennedy House then slapped a double to add to that, scoring Oppel, as the Lady Cats took a 6-2 lead.
‘I think for us, when one gets going, everybody gets going,’ Pavey said. ‘We’re a team that feeds off each other.’
In the fifth inning, both teams threatened to score, with each getting two runners on but failing to convert. Eastern went three-up-and-out in the top of the sixth. North Harrison again threatened to add to its total, but again left two runners on base.
Eastern hoped to make a final charge in the top of the seventh, as North Harrison erred to allow Hoke on base. Morgan Martin moved Hoke to second with a bunt, and Lake Reaver followed with a single. With two outs, Watson added another single, scoring runner Destiny Worley. Rogers hoped to keep the parade going but popped out, leaving two runners on, as North Harrison got the 6-3 win.
‘I had one out in the situation, and I went out there and told them that run (on first base) doesn’t mean anything,’ Pavey said. ‘I’m trying to set up for the next situation. I told them my next situation was not to let that lead runner, who was at first at the time, get to third. That was my whole goal, not to let her get to third.’
North Harrison finished with nine hits, with Oppel getting three and Kennedy House and McAfee getting two each. The Lady Cats had three errors and left nine runners on base. From the pitching circle, Smith struck out two and walked three Eastern batters.
‘With her being a freshman, it’s just about experience,’ Pavey said of Smith. ‘I think with her, the more games she pitches, the more she’s going to get comfortable. Again, it’s hitting locations for them. She’s not overpowering like some pitchers are when they’re seniors. So, being a freshman, she’s got to hit those spots and she’s got to get ahead on the count. If she does those two things, she’s fine. She really settles down in a game.’
Eastern had five hits, with Watson getting two singles. The Lady Musketeers had two errors and left seven runners on base. Rogers struck out four, walked three and hit one North Harrison batter.
‘I watched (Rogers) against Lanesville the last three or four innings, and she throws good, off-speed pitches,’ Pavey said. ‘Her ball moves. She changes speed on her pitches. She did really well keeping us at bay. For the first few innings, we had to figure her out. Eastern is a good team; they really played well today.’
‘There’s only Salem and Charlestown that’s 6-1 in the conference,’ Pavey said. ‘We’re 5-2 in third place, and Charlestown and Salem played each other tonight. One of them is going to have two losses. So, that puts us in second place right now. With a little help, we can tie for first. That’s our goal. Being a new team and a new coach, I think that’s a good goal to have.’

Eastern 001 100 1 ‘ 3 5 2
North Harrison 001 500 x ‘ 6 9 3
W ‘ Smith, L ‘ Rogers.
2B ‘ Sears (NH), House (NH); 3B ‘ McAfee (NH).