Wednesday, April 06, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville stays calm, wins tourney

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils overcame the loss of one of their key starters and a 7-4 deficit in the championship game to come back and beat Searcy 8-7 and win the Gregory Polaris Lady Red Devil Invitational softball tournament on Saturday at Excel Park.

Jacksonville also beat Mayflower 5-4 and Glen Rose 13-1 earlier in the day to play Searcy for the tournament title.

Starting pitcher and first baseman Kym House suffered an injury late in the win over Glen Rose when she was tagged hard at third base on the base of the skull. That left Brianna Loyd to finish the tournament in the circle, but Jacksonville coach Hank Hawk considers both players starting pitchers.

“Brianna doesn’t hit her spots as well (as House) but she’s got a little more heat on her pitch, I think,” said Hawk. “So there are advantages to both of them. They’re a good one-two punch for us.”

Things couldn’t start much better for Jacksonville in the championship game. Jacksonville leadoff hitter Allison Seats cranked Searcy pitcher Maegan Pistokache’s third pitch of the game over the fence in straightaway center field for a quick 1-0 lead, but the Lady Devils added three more before the inning was over.

Bailey Holt singled to right field on the next at-bat before the next two batters grounded out. Pistokache then began struggling to find the strike zone. She walked Loyd, Payton Mullen and Kinley Burrows in a row to drive in another run. Jordan Moody then singled to right field to score the next two for a 4-0 Jacksonville lead.

Loyd walked the first batter she faced in the bottom of the first, but followed that with two strikeouts and a weak fly ball to second base to end the inning.

Jacksonville got two on with one out in the second but failed to score when Pistokache fanned Loyd and Mackenzie Rodgers.

Loyd struck out the side in the second, but not until the Lady Lions scored four unearned runs to tie the game.

After a strikeout to start the inning, Searcy got a walk and a single, followed by another strikeout. A grounder to short should’ve ended the inning, but Mullen mishandled the throw from Burrows to load the bases with two outs.

Loyd then walked a run home, and Reagan Feltrop doubled to drive in two more. An error in the outfield then allowed the tying run.

Moody squeezed in a base hit among three strikeouts for Jacksonville in the top of the third, and Searcy scored three more in the bottom half of the inning on three singles and two walks.

Jacksonville tied the game in the top of the fourth, scoring three runs after Seats, Holt and Emily Lovercheck hit consecutive singles to start the inning. Those three hits scored one run. After a pop up to first base, Loyd singled to drive in Holt and Mullen drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 7-7.

With time running out in the fifth, Jacksonville got the winning run. Zylah Richardson hit a leadoff single, followed by another hit from Seats.

Earlier in the day, Jacksonville and Glen Rose were tied at 1-1 through three innings and Jacksonville led 2-1 after four before the Lady Red Devils exploded in the fifth.

Mullen scored when she and Madeline Smith hit back-to-back triples to break the tie in the fourth inning.

In the fifth, five of the first six batters reached base with four singles and a walk to score two runs. Smith then hit a single to drive in another run, and an error on the play allowed another runner to cross the plate for a 6-1 Jacksonville lead.

The Lady Red Devils then scored seven runs in the sixth inning to put the game away.

It started with a leadoff single by Richardson, followed by a two-run home run by Seats. Holt then reached on an error and scored on a double by Lovercheck.

The next two Jacksonville batters struck out, but both reached safely on a passed ball and a wild pitch. Mullen was then hit by a pitch and Smith cleared the bases with a three-run triple. Another error on Richardson’s at-bat allowed Smith to score and set the final margin.

House threw a two-hitter and gave up no earned runs over five innings. She struck out seven and walked no one.

Against Mayflower, Jacksonville trailed 3-1 going into the fourth inning before posting four runs for the win. Lovercheck hit a leadoff single and Rodgers homered to tie the game.

House reached on an error and everyone was safe on Mullen’s fielder’s choice grounder. Loyd’s grounder to first got Mullen thrown out at second and left runners on the corners with one out. Burrows then grounded to third and House was thrown out at home.

With runners on first and second with two outs and the score tied, Richardson slapped a single down the third base line for one RBI, and Seats singled to right for another and a 5-3 lead.

Mayflower scored after a leadoff triple in the sixth, but never threatened again.

House threw all seven innings, giving up seven hits and three earned runs while striking out six and walking zero.

“These girls were behind in every game and they just stay even and calm,” Hawk said. “They just don’t get rattled and that’s important. We had a couple of horrible innings in this tournament. They’re just able to put it behind them and move on.”