By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
STEARNS—North Laurel entered Monday’s game at McCreary Central on a five-game winning streak. The Lady Raiders had lost six straight. You wouldn’t expect this to be a nail biter.
North Laurel did roll to an 11-0 win in five innings after a slow start. The slow starts are one of coach Becky Osborne’s concerns for this team.
“As we get further into the season, we can’t do that,” Osborne said.
Osborne has not been able to find a specific reason the Lady Jaguars have not been quick starters. Monday there was the long, winding bus ride to McCreary Central.
“I really don’t know. I think it just takes a while to get in the groove,” Osborne said.
North Laurel led 2-0 after two innings, but had been outhit by the Lady Raiders. McCreary Central left five runners stranded in the first two innings with Megan Baldwin giving up four hits and a walk.
“She had to get warmed up. I don’t think she really got warmed up until about the third inning,” Osborne said.
North Laurel scored in the first inning with Sidney Herrell’s leadoff single and two stolen bases setting up a sacrifice fly for Vanessa Smith.
McCreary Central opened with two straight singles. Then fly balls kept them from scoring.
North’s second inning run started with Farris Strong ripping a single after falling behind two strikes. Blake Johnson doubled home Strong with the right fielder misplaying her deep fly.
In the bottom of the second, McCreary Central loaded the bases with one out before leaving them stranded.
The Lady Jaguars took charge in both halves of the third inning. Six runs included a two-run single to right field by Smith that was again misplayed in right. Osborne said the right fielder’s struggles did not lead to more balls in that direction.
“It was just where the pitch was. They took the ball to where it was pitched tonight really well,” Osborne said.
North Laurel led 8-0 as Baldwin retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning.
The Lady Jaguars added two runs in the fourth on RBI singles by Strong and Baldwin. When Baldwin returned to the mound, she made it seven straight batters retired.
Herrell reached on an error to open the fifth inning and scored on a single by Kailin Yantz. McCreary Central did get a pair of hits in the fifth, but again left the runners stranded.
This weekend the Lady Jaguars will travel to the Greenwood Border Battle in Bowling Green to face some of the state’s top teams. North Laurel went winless in their first tournament appearance this season at the Ballard Invitational. It was an uncharacteristic performance by the Lady Jaguars.
“It’s a very big tournament,” Osborne said. “We need some tournament success. We are at midseason right now. We need to win a few games.”