After four innings of scoreless softball, it appeared that Tuesday’s game between Franklin County and host Western Hills was going to come down to which team would blink first.
In the end, the Lady Wolverines blinked twice – first giving up one run and then taking the lead back the next inning, only to allow the Lady Flyers to blow the game open in the bottom of the same inning and go on to win 5-2.
FCHS starting pitcher Kara Howard along with WHHS starter Brooklyn Etherington were dominant for four innings, neither giving up a run. But in the top of the fifth, WHHS coach Jeff Pritchett decided to bring in Taylor Slade to finish out the game. It was the change that the Lady Flyers needed.
With two outs, FCHS’ Shelby Sanders and Kiana Butler drew walks and then Sydney Wiard smacked a single between first and second to score Sanders and give the Lady Flyers a 1-0 lead.
The Lady Wolverines got a break to start their half of the fifth when Sawyer Coffey hit a high fly ball between third and shortstop that dropped in for a single. After a strikeout, FCHS coach Tracy Spickard drew the outfielders in as well as the third and first basemen to cut off any chance of a run.
McKenna Brown made them pay as she slapped a hard line drive to right field that rolled all the way to to the fence for an inside-the-park home run, putting WHHS up 2-1.
“Makenna hit a SHOT,” Pritchett said. “The only thing they had seen watching her play previously is nothing but small ball. She has really improved from the left side and she is an absolute weapon. We have to continue to put the bat on the ball behind her and move her. She can be a phenomenal lead-off hitter for us.”
FCHS would get out of the inning on a double play, but the damage was done.
“Defensively we had a total breakdown in communication on the left side of the infield,” Spickard said about the uncaught fly ball to third. “We didn’t talk at all. Then their lead-off batter came up and got a nice hit. We didn’t keep the ball in front of us and it turned into two runs.”
The young Lady Flyer squad looked to have its back against the wall, but FCHS responded with force in the top of the sixth inning. Ashley Hack led off with walk and her pinch runner Alexa Ferrell was sacrificed to second by Brianna Banks and then moved to third on a single by Alyssa Gaines. Butler then hit into a fielder’s choice that scored Ferrell to tie the game. Banks went to third and Gaines to second on the throw to home to try and put out Ferrell.
“We had some momentum going,” Pritchett said. “I broke our stride a little bit. The kids did what they were supposed to do. Then we make a few mistakes here and there maybe. Ultimately, the defense is not what I am worried about; it’s the offense. We have to come out hitting the ball and our kids will make plays when it counts.”
Macy Johnson then grounded out to score Banks and then Gaines scored on a single by Sanders to make it 4-2 in favor of FCHS. Sanders would score on an error on a hit by Butler after stealing second and third. FCHS led 5-2.
“I thought we showed a lot of mental toughness by coming back in the sixth inning after giving up those two runs in the fifth,” Spickard said. “We strung some hits together when we needed them and put some runs across the plate.”
Howard shut down the Lady Wolverines in the sixth and seventh innings. She finished the game with 11 strikeouts and scattered six hits.
“Kara did an excellent job on the mound,” Spickard said. “She had doubledigit strikeouts and she was painting the corners well.”
Etherington came back into the game in the seventh and finished with five strikeouts, three walks and gave up three hits. Slade finished with one strikeout and three walks along with giving up three hits.
“We came out and tried to put the pressure on them…we just couldn’t get the bats working,” Pritchett said. “Kara (Howard) pitched a great game. She kept our hitters off balance. For our team to succeed, our team has to put the ball in play. And tonight, we had a tough time doing that.”