May 7, 2010 9:51:00 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
EUPORA -- Ten runs usually is enough for any fast-pitch softball team to win comfortably.
The way the Hamilton High School Lady Lions have been playing, scoring double-digit runs virtually guarantees a victory.
"If you would have told me we were going to score 10 runs I would have thought we would have won," Hamilton coach Jason Cobb said.
But funny things happen at playoff time.
And just when Hamilton thought it had ironed out its pesky defensive mistakes, those miscues cost them again at an inopportune time.
Katelyn Rodgers'' two-run single with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh lifted Eupora to an 11-10 victory in Game 1 of the best-of-three Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A playoff series.
Hamilton (17-9) will try to rebound at 1 p.m. Saturday when it plays host to game two. An "if needed" game three would follow game two.
Rodgers, a sophomore shortstop, delivered the game-winning hit after the Lady Lions walked Allie Steadman to load the bases. Steadman, the No. 5 hitter, had one hit in two official at-bats (two walks), while Rodgers was hitless in four trips to the plate.
Rodgers made her final at-bat worth the wait, taking a riseball that was just outside on 2-2 and then lining the next pitch down the right-field line to give Eupora its 21st victory of the season.
"Katelyn came up with a big hit," Eupora coach Trae Embry said. "Coach Cobb did the same thing I would have done, walk her to load the bases. I didn''t know it was going to be bases loaded and her having to get a basehit, but she came through."
Embry said mistakes put the Lady Eagles in position to give the game away. In the sixth inning, a dropped flyball in left field helped the Lady Lions score four runs and regain the momentum.
In the seventh, Anna Imel, Hamilton''s No. 2 hitter, capitalized on a missed foul popup to reach base on a single. The hit ignited the go-ahead rally, as Williams doubled to left-center field to tie the game at 9. Shelby Savage, who had an RBI single in the top of the sixth, singled up the middle to give Hamilton a 10-9 lead.
"It is kind of like we kept shooting ourselves in the foot," Embry said. "But, in the end, we found a way, I guess. They have played hard all year and they''re going to battle. We''re going to see if we can keep the momentum going."
Eupora sophomore pitcher Lexie Boykin (three hits) walked seven and struck out 10 in and up-and-down outing. She allowed three runs in the top of the first before settling down and getting in touch with her riseball. She also mixed her pitches and moved the ball up and down and in out to keep the Lady Lions off balance.
Hamilton hurt itself with seven errors that helped Eupora score seven unearned runs, including the two in the bottom of the seventh. The Lady Lions had one fielding error and two more on throws in an inning that could have been a three-up, three-down affair for reliever Lyndsey Williams.
Instead, the left-hander took the loss. She replaced Savage, the starting pitcher, with two outs in the bottom of the third after the Lady Eagles had six hits and capitalized two errors that led to five unearned runs.
Cobb said the mistakes weren''t atypical but had been erased the past few weeks.
"In two innings we made four errors that allowed the seven runs, and it is hard to bounce back from that," Cobb said.
Hamilton also settled in against Boykin in the later innings. The Lady Lions had nine hits, including four by Savage and two by Williams. Several of those hits were line drives as the Lady Lions had better swings and were more disciplined against Boykin''s riseball as the game progressed.
The mistakes in the seventh overshadowed a fine defensive play by left fielder Raimi Bryan. The eighth-grader charged in from her position to back up third base and was in position to corral an errant throw by first baseman Chauncia Willis that would have allowed the tying and winning runs to score.
As it turned out, Eupora needed to wait only a few more batters before their youth delivered in a big way.
Cobb hopes the Lady Lions can reload for what he feels with be a knockdown, dragout affair Saturday.
"I think they will be fine," Cobb said. "I can honestly say this group loves the pressure. They love to have their back against the wall. I think our best ball is in those situations and, hopefully, that continues."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.