Tuesday, April 19, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville softball wins three in a row

Leader sports editor

The Lady Red Devil softball team lost its opening game of the Beebe/Cabot Invitational 11-0 to Cabot on Saturday, but have since reeled off three-straight wins, including an exciting finish to a 1-0 victory over Searcy at Dupree Park on Monday.

Against Searcy, the two teams were tied 0-0 when Jacksonville came to bat in the bottom of the seventh. Five-hole hitter Mackenzie Rodgers worked the count to 2-1 before ripping a line drive deep to left field.

Searcy’s left fielder made a tremendous play just to get her glove on the ball, but did so just as she ran into the fence. Her momentum carried her over the fence as she lost control of the ball, ending the game on a walk-off solo home run by Rodgers.

“Mac just crushed that ball,” said Jacksonville coach Hank Hawk. “It was a dead line drive about 10-12 feet off the ground. They were playing her deep so she was able to get to it, but it was such a scorcher it just didn’t stay in her glove.”

It was also a fine performance by JHS pitcher Kym House and the Red Devil defense. Jacksonville beat Searcy earlier this season in another exciting, but totally different, game.

The Lady Red Devils rallied from a 7-2 deficit to win 8-7. Searcy hit the ball hard in that game and Jacksonville committed several errors in two innings to fall into the hole.

On Monday, Jacksonville had two errors and the Lady Lions only had one hard base hit off House.

“They had a couple of bloop base hits over third and shortstop, and one hard line drive to center field,” Hawk said. “Other than that, Kym pretty well kept them off balance, and we played good defense. That’s the key. You have three or four errors behind you and all of a sudden you’ve got five, six, seven runs on the board.

“I was glad we played in a game like that where we had to just hold serve until something happened.”

Right after dropping the game to Cabot, Jacksonville bounced back with an 11-3 win over Perryville, which had just lost 5-4 in extra innings to Lake Hamilton.

Rodgers got the ball rolling for Jacksonville in that one as well. She hit a two-RBI single in the top of the first inning to put the Lady Devils up for good. Jacksonville added an unearned run in the second inning before exploding for eight in the third.

Payton Mullen and Bailey Holt each hit doubles off the wall down the third-base line. Rodgers also doubled to drive in two more runs. House and Emily Lovercheck singled and three other Lady Devils walked in the inning.

Jacksonville then beat 5A-East Batesville 5-2 in the final of the consolation bracket. All five runs came in the first two innings.

Allison Seats doubled, Holt and Lovercheck singled, House reached on a strike-three passed ball, Rodgers reached on a fielder’s choice that got no one out and Mullen walked before Batesville recorded an out in the game.

In the second inning, holding a 3-0 lead, Seats hit a leadoff home run to center field. Holt followed with a single and later scored on a base hit by House.

Batesville got at least two base hits in each of the first three innings, but Jacksonville’s defense was stellar. The Pioneers were held scoreless until the fifth inning when they pushed across their two runs.

Jacksonville was scheduled to play Benton-Harmony Grove at home on Tuesday, but that game was rained out. The Lady Red Devils will face Bauxite on Monday. The Lady Miners, who were the Class 4A runners up last season, won the Beebe/Cabot tournament after rallying from a 6-3 deficit to beat Cabot in extra innings.