By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
CORBIN—South Laurel had managed just a single run when it came to bat in the bottom of the sixth game. A tense game for the 50th District title had been dominated by pitchers Hagan Burns and Hannah Hart. That’s when Amber Hyde did something she doesn’t usually do.
“It was a high pitch and I normally don’t swing at high pitches,” Hyde said. “I just took it where it needed to go.”
Hyde said she didn’t think the towering shot would clear the left field fence. By the time it did, she was already to second base.
“Hannah made that one mistakes on Amber, I think she said it was a curve ball,” South Laurel coach James Burns said.
Hyde’s homer gave South Laurel some insurance at 3-0 and also gave her a 12th home run for the season, a number exceeded in a season only by current Kentucky Wildcat Emily Gaines.
“I was just trying to get a hit because I hadn’t gotten one all night. I just wanted a line drive hit,” Hyde said.
The only thing that came up a little short was Corbin’s valiant bid to upset South Laurel. Hart limited the Lady Cardinals to four hits, while South Laurel’s Burns allowed five. Both teams committed one error. Corbin’s error led to a run, but South Laurel’s was of no consequence.
“That was a pitcher’s duel,” Burns said. “Hannah (Hart) Hagan (Burns) pitched lights out, both of them.”
The fast-moving game remained scoreless until the bottom of the fourth inning. It was Burns that got the rally started with a two-out single.
“The one run was the one that impressed me,” Burns said. “Hagan got a two-out hit and (pinch runner Mackenzie Powenski) stole second. Bailey (Miller) got one up the middle and Powenski didn’t look back. She scored the go-ahead run.”
Not only did Burns come through with two outs, Miller had two outs and two strikes when she lined the pitch over second base.
“That’s been our Achilles heel all year, getting that two-out hit,” Burns said.
The Lady Redhounds best threat came in the sixth inning. Just like Burns for South Laurel, it was the pitcher that started the rally. Hart singled with one out and Whitley Gatliff was hit by a pitch with two outs. A grounder in the hole a shortstop seemed destined for left field. Cassandra Johnson made a diving stop and caught Hart off the base at third to end the inning.
“Our team rotates around Cassandra. If Cassandra gets fired up she gets them fired up. When she’s doing well, they play well. She was a little too gassed tonight,” Burns said. “Then she comes back and makes this play in the hole and throws to third. That’s a really big out. That was a heads up play.”
Still feeling the momentum from the defense, the offense came through in the bottom of the sixth. Brittany Vandeventer reached on an error before Hyde drove the clincher out of the park.
“I thought it was going to be a little short,” Burns said.
Burns expected more offense from his team after two solid days of practice.
“We had the best two days of practice, today and yesterday, that we’ve probably had all year. Honestly I thought we would come out here and score a lot of runs,” Burns said.
During today’s batting practice Burns left the field and went behind the fence to help retrieve all the balls the Lady Cardinals were smashing out of the park.
“We just hit that many out. Hannah pitched awesome because they were locked in,” Burns said.
Now the Lady Cardinals can sit back and watch who wins the other district in the 13th Region. The draw for the region tournament will be Sunday as rain has played havoc with district tournaments already.
“I’m excited for the girls. They’ve had a really good season. Six losses and three of those were in South Carolina,” Burns said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in them. “