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Starkville Academy uses small ball to beat Oak Hill


Adam Minichino



STARKVILLE --Randy Haynes likes robust boxscores. 


The Starkville Academy fast-pitch softball coach would prefer to have his players swing away and pile up the doubles, triples, or home runs. 


Sometimes, though, you need to switch gears. 


Versatility can help when you''re facing a riseball pitcher like Oak Hill Academy''s Mamie Allen. 


So instead of having his players take healthy cuts, Haynes opted to play small ball. 


The decision worked as Starkville Academy executed its bunts and used a six-run fifth to beat Oak Hill Academy 7-2 in a Mississippi Association of Independent Schools game. 


Starkville Academy (2-0) had only five hits, but its small-ball approach at the plate and its aggressive baserunning proved to be too much for the Lady Raiders (0-1) in the fifth. 


"We practice a lot of small ball," Haynes said. "You try to practice everything in case you need it, and we needed it today. I told them the third time we got up and started over that that was where we were going to go. It has worked for us before in the summer high school league." 


Leadoff hitter Bailey Wofford, who doubled in the first inning, started the fifth with a bunt single. A sacrifice bunt, an intentional walk, two fielder''s choices, an infield groundout, and a walk led up to the "big" hit of the inning: a two-run bloop double by Lauren Ware. 


The hit fell into the dead zone behind first base and the right fielder and scored Kylie Lockhart and Mary Austin Barber. 


Shelby Marsh also scored on the play when Oak Hill Academy didn''t get the ball back into the infield. 


Haynes praised Ware, who had a key hit in the team''s season-opening victory against Kemper Academy. 


"Lauren Ware came through for us again," Haynes said. "She is clutch hitting for us right when we need it. That is why we''re putting her in there. We have confidence in her." 


Starkville Academy tied the score with a run in the third. Renee Tatum was hit by a pitch with one out and moved to third on an infield error. She continued home on an outfield throwing error. 


Lyndsey Haynes, whose groundball went off the third baseman''s leg into the outfield, tried to sneak home on the overthrow but Allen tagged her out at the plate. 


Coach Haynes said the Lady Volunteers will try to pressure teams with aggressive baserunning all season. He said it probably is his team''s strongest point, and with Wofford and Lockhart, a left-handed slap hitter, in the leadoff and cleanup spots, Starkville Academy should be able to create a lot of movement on the basepaths. 


Haynes said the Lady Volunteers will be able to swing away against some pitchers so the players will be able to record their share of extra-base hits. 


But for at least one day Haynes was happy his team had another option. 


"She is hard to hit," Haynes said of Allen. "We have practiced it enough that I feel confient I can put the girls in there that we can play small ball, and it always seems to work for us." 


Oak Hill Academy coach Marion Bratton said his team is still working to find replacements for third baseman Mary Helen Hays (stress fracture) and first baseman Paige Dawkins (torn anterior cruciate ligament).  


The injuries have forced Bratton to go with inexperienced players at key infield positions.  


"We have to find somebody to fill in at least to one of them gets back," Bratton said. "Maybe Mary Helen will get back. If she doesn''t, these ladies are just going to have to grow up, and somebody is going to have to decide I am going to compete and I want the job. It''s mine." 


Megan Holton had an RBI single to score Maegen Ellis, who had singled, in the first. Ellis and Holton had singles in the fifth before Allen had an RBI on a fielder''s choice. 


Oak Hill Academy had only five hits against Haynes, who stuck out four and walked none. 


"For four or five innings we got by and then that experience that we don''t have caught up with us and the wheels ran off," Bratton said. "We have to learn to start talking and communicating." 


Bratton said the little things like backing up and bunt assignments are fundamentals that he believes the team will improve on with time. 


For now, though, he said he is going to mix and match lineups and use Allen and Ellis in the pitching circle to find the right formula. 


"My goal is to get some experience early, let them catch on and, hopefully, in a couple of weeks we will have it rolling," Bratton said. 


n Central Academy 4, Russell Christian Academy 3: At Meridian, Kendall Taylor had a two-run triple in the fifth inning to help the visitors win their season opener. 


Blake Rigdon also had a bunt single for the Lady Vikings, who overcame five errors. 


Alex Dawkins pitched the first two innings, and Lillian Lindsey pitched the final three innings of the time-shortened game to get the victory. 


Russell Christian Academy had only two hits. 


Central Academy plays at Starkville Academy at 5 p.m. today.


Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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