Wednesday, April 25, 2012

SPORTS >> Lonoke wins top seed at district

Leader sportswriter

With a final from one game still pending and a district tournament quickly approaching, the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits made the most of a pressure situation with a 14-1 rout over Clinton on Monday to secure the No. 1 seed out of the 4A-2 Conference.

The Lady ’Rabbits (5-0 conf.) trailed Newport 2-1 on Friday when rain halted the game in the bottom of the second inning. They resumed play in that game last night with Lonoke still holding a chance to go through its league unbeaten, but the victory over the Lady Yellowjackets gave the Lady ’Rabbits the conference title and top seed. Lonoke will play the winner between seeds four and five at 8 p.m. Friday.

“It was an important ballgame because we went up to Newport Friday and played two-and-a-half innings, and we’re down 2-1 still,” Lady Jackrabbits coach J.D. Smith said. “We had to win one of these two to get the championship. It was good, now we can go up there relaxed and take care of business.”

Lonoke pitcher Hanna Murry took care of business with a no-hitter against Clinton, striking out five and walking one, while the Jackrabbit defense kept its visitor off the pads through the first three innings until an error in right field in the top of the fourth inning allowed the Lady Yellowjackets to score their only run.

“She’s a good one,” Smith said of Murry. “When she wants to throw, and she’s ready, she can put it where she wants it. She’s tough to hit.”

The Lady Jackrabbits built a 7-0 lead through the first two innings and doubled that advantage in the bottom of the third inning. In fact, Lonoke loaded the bases two different times and scored its first three runs in the frame without even making contact on the ball.

Kaley Dozier was walked from the bottom of the order to bring up lead-off batter Ashley James, who was walked along with two-hole Jaselye Truelove to load the bases with one out. Clinton’s starter then hit Katelyn James with a pitch to score Dozier. Another walk, this one for cleanup Alyssia Lewis, scored James to give Lonoke a 9-0 lead. That still left Lady Jackrabbits on every pad, and a fourth walk sent Truelove home and Courtney McGowen to first.

“That makes it a lot easier,” Smith said. “You don’t have to worry about it as much. But we’re playing together as a team, and we’re really excited about the district tournament.”

Amber James got the first hit in the bottom of the third when she beat the throw to first on a bunt to score Katelyn James. Courtesy runner Sydney Wheat then scored on a passed ball to make it 12-0. That brought eight-hole hitter Olivia Park back up to the plate. Park struck out to lead off the inning, but got her revenge with a single to left field that scored McGowan and Amber James.

Walks were also a big part of Lonoke’s early scores as Ashley James and Truelove led off with walks in the bottom of the first inning. James slid into a tag at first while stealing but Truelove scored on an error at third off a grounder by Alyssia Lewis, who later scored on a single to right by Murry.

Walks and errors hurt the Lady ’Jackets again in the bottom of the second as Lonoke added five runs off two hits, two walks and two errors, including singles by Park and Alyssia Lewis.

Park was technically the only Lady Jackrabbit to record multiple hits, going 2 for 3 with two RBI, but Ashley James and McGowen both reached base three times on walks, while Truelove made it on all four times she went up with two walks and two errors.

In all, Clinton walked Lonoke nine times and hit two other batters while the defense committed four errors.