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Bright lights up Lady Cats over Austin, 12-1

Bright lights up Lady Cats over Austin, 12-1
Bright lights up Lady Cats over Austin, 12-1
North Harrison second baseman Alaina Sears raises her arm to indicate she has the ball in a diving catch against Austin. Photo by Wade Bell

It was a ‘Bright’ kind of day for the North Harrison Lady Cats softball team last Tuesday afternoon in its Mid-Southern Conference game against visiting Austin, as junior Kaylin Bright led her team to a 12-1, five-inning win. Bright was the fire in North Harrison’s engine, punching in two home runs and a double, going 3 for 3.
‘Before the game, I asked the kids to come out and take care of business so I could get some of the other kids in the game that don’t get to play a whole lot on varsity and get them some innings,’ North Harrison coach Mark Lamon said. ‘They came out and did what I asked of them.’
Lamon didn’t have to wait long to see his team get business done. After Austin went three up and out in the top of the first, Jourdan McAfee was the first one to show a big stick, punching a triple to begin the at-bat. Kodi House flied out to center field but got the RBI as McAfee scored on the tag.
Bright then got her first chance and didn’t wait, hitting the first pitch from Austin pitcher Taylor Elliott. The ball sailed over the left-field fence, giving Bright a free circuit of the bases and North Harrison a 2-0 lead.
‘The first one, I didn’t know it was gone,’ Bright said. ‘I thought maybe it was going to be a double or maybe a triple off of it, but it ended up going over. … The first one was down the middle (of the plate).’
Austin managed a base runner in the top of the second with one out, but North Harrison pitcher Lacie Smith struck out the next two, shutting down the Lady Eagles.
In the bottom of the inning, with one out, North Harrison’s Alaina Sears was hit by a pitch then stole second and third. MaKaila Bruner walked and stole second. Sears stayed aggressive on the bases, stealing home on a botched throw to put the Lady Cats up 3-0.
North Harrison’s defense shut down the Lady Eagles in the top of the third inning, turning a double play. Bright began the bottom of the third with a double that started a Lady Cats’ barrage. Kyia Oppel also ripped a double, scoring Bright, and grabbed an extra base by stealing third. Brittany Rudolph followed with a single to score Oppel.
Laken Coughenour walked, and Aspen Luther singled to score courtesy runner Jillian Longacre. Sears followed with a triple that scored Luther and Coughenour. The parade of hits continued as Bruner singled, scoring Sears. McAfee then punched her second hit with a single that scored Bruner.
Bright then had her third big hit and second home run, again over the left-field fence. Rudolph was hit by a pitch for a free pass, with Longacre coming in to run again.
Coughenour ducked on a high inside pitch, but her bat was up, allowing the ball to make contact and falling in fair, leading to the third out but giving the Lady Cats a nine-run inning and a 12-1 lead.
That would be the last of the scoring as North Harrison improved its conference record to 5-2 and season record to 11-9.
‘I think it’s coming together at the right time,’ Lamon said. ‘We’ve got a couple of weeks left, and I can see they’re starting to support each other more now that people are figuring out their roles. They know what they’re doing and … instead of the long faces in the dugout, they’re starting to support each other.’
North Harrison finished with 12 hits for the game. Besides Bright’s 3-for-3 effort, McAfee and Rudolph had two hits each. From the pitching circle, Smith struck out two and walked one and Gracie Troncin walked two. North Harrison had one error and left four runners on base.
‘I’m just glad I finally came around to start hitting again,’ Bright said. ‘I haven’t been hitting as well as I could have been, so I’m glad I finally came around tonight. It really helped with our other players hitting the ball, as well, and to execute whenever we ask them to and being flexible in different positions.’
‘I’ve been around the game since I was little, so I’m pretty comfortable,’ she said. ‘I can play pretty much anywhere you put me. … I’ve been playing travel ball since I was 10, maybe a little younger than 10. I’ve played every summer. Last year, I went to the Elite game. Hopefully, it will take me somewhere.’
‘Early in the season, we went without Kaylin Bright,’ Lamon said. ‘Since she’s back, she’s been a beast. Tonight, they were line drives. She’s just been a huge help coming back. Kyia Oppel has been crushing the ball. Up and down the lineup, we’ve been scoring double digits for five games in a row. Now, we’re getting the pitching to come around and, hopefully, we can put it all together. It’s just coming together at the right time.’
Austin finished with three hits, Rachel Amos getting two of those. Elliott walked two and hit two North Harrison batters. The Lady Eagles had no errors and left four runners stranded.
Lamon said he is happy with his team’s defense but still wants to see improvement in the pitcher’s circle.
‘Kaylin is just fearless at third base, and Kyia is just fundamentally sound,’ he said of his infielders. ‘Alaina has done a really nice job at second. The surprise is Bruner was an outfielder here and she’s moved over to first base and owned it and has done a really good job. It took us a while to get all the pieces together.’
‘We’ve still got to work on our pitching, hitting more spots, because we don’t have the big velocity pitcher that other people have,’ he said. ‘So, we’ve got to hit spots. It goes back a few years ago when we had Miranda Whelan and we went to semi-state. She didn’t throw hard, but she hit her spots. So, we’ve got to tweak that.’

Austin 000 10 ‘ 1 3 0
North Harrison 219 0x ‘ 12 12 1
W ‘ Smith (7-5), L ‘ Elliott.
2B ‘ Bright (NH), Oppel (NH); 3B ‘ McAfee (NH), Sears (NH); HR ‘ Bright 2 (NH).
Records ‘ North Harrison 11-9 (5-2 MSC); Austin 0-12.