Saturday, April 19, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Red Devils fend off persistent Falcons

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devil softball team got a doubleheader sweep of rival North Pulaski on Wednesday, but it didn’t come as easily as expected. Jacksonville has enjoyed success against some teams that have beaten the Lady Falcons handily, but the youthful NP team brought its A game on Wednesday.

Jacksonville won by scores of 5-1 and 9-4, but North Pulaski coach Tony Bohannon was still pleased with what he saw from his team.

“You have to remember I’m starting five freshmen, three sophomores and a senior,” said Bohannon. “We’ve struggled at times this year, but I’m as proud as I can be of how they played tonight. Defensively this is probably our best game of the year. They competed. They kept their heads about them when Jacksonville started hitting the ball and scoring a little bit. At times this year we’ve lost our focus when things started going wrong. Tonight they stayed with it and competed. I’m very proud of them.”

Given that North Pulaski competed so well, and even put some pressure on Jacksonville early in both games, Lady Red Devil coach Hank Hawk praised his team as well.

“I love competing with these girls,” Hawk said of his squad. “If they get in jams, they don’t panic and they work out of it. They’ve done it for the last seven games. This team competes hard.”

North Pulaski, 12-7, 6-2, took the early lead in the bottom of the first of game one. Allison and Kelsey Seats got back-to-back singles to start the inning. Bailea Holt lined out to third base, but a sacrifice grounder by Madeline Graves scored Allison Seats.

Jacksonville got on the board in the top of the second inning when Brianna Loyd hit a two-RBI single to right field that scored Kymberly House and Sacha Richardson.

The score remained 2-1 until the sixth inning when Jacksonville, 11-4, 6-2, added the game’s final three runs. House reached on an E6 to start the rally. Emily Lovercheck singled to center field. Richardson tried to bunt, but Holt picked the ball up and fired to third to get House. Loyd then put down a bunt single to load the bases and Alexis Goodman was hit by a pitch for an RBI. Morgan Lloyd then hit what should have been a sacrifice grounder to second base, but the throw went home, wasn’t in time to get Richardson and left everyone safe. Zyla Richardson then grounded to third for what should have been the third out, but again the throw went home and this time got Loyd for the second out. Bailea Mitchell then grounded to third for what again should have been the third out, but again the throw went home, and again wasn’t in time to get Goodman, whose run set the final margin.

Loyd took the mound in relief of House in the fourth inning. She gave up a double to Holt to start the fourth, then issued a one-out walk to Peyton Mullen. After that, Loyd retired 11 in a row, including six strikeouts, to finish the game. She fanned the side in the bottom of the seventh.

North Pulaski got three hits, one each by Allison and Kelsey Seats, and Holt.

House gave up hits to the first two batters before retiring nine straight in the first three innings.

Kelsey Seats scattered seven hits over seven innings on the mound for North Pulaski. She struck out three, walked one and gave up just three earned runs.

Loyd started on the mound and pitched three innings before yielding to House in game two.

The Lady Red Devils scored four runs in the first inning to quickly assume control of the nightcap. North Pulaski answered in the second with four runs to tie the game, but Jacksonville added five runs in the bottom of the third to set the final margin. House and Seats dominated from the mound for the rest of the game.