By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
When South Laurel met Middlesboro in the season opener back on March 19, the Lady Cards rolled to an 18-0 win.
Tuesday night the two teams met in a rematch, with No. 21 South Laurel squeaking out a 6-4 win.
“We played horrible,” South Laurel coach James Burns said. “We had very little effort. We acted like we didn’t want to be here. Last time we beat them in three innings. This time they almost had us.”
In fact, Middlesboro (17-8) had cut the lead to 5-4 in the top of the sixth before South Laurel (22-6) added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning to secure the two-run win.
It was also Senior Night, and before the game, Megan Smith, Chelsea Wemes, Amber Hyde, Laura Williams and Cassandra Johnson were all honored.
“I don’t know if it being Senior Night had anything to do with it, or because it’s a long season, but we played the worst game we have played all year,” Burns said.
After two innings, it didn’t look like it was going to be close, as South Laurel held a 5-1 lead.
Two runs came home in the first, and it got started when Brittany Vandeventer beat out a bunt single with one out. She stole second and advanced to third when the ball got away. Amber Hyde then drew a walk and stole second.
With runners on second and third, Hagan Burns hit a sacrifice fly to right that scored Vandeventer for the 1-0 lead. The throw to the plate got away from the catcher, and an alert Hyde also scored to make it 2-0.
Middlesboro got one of those runs back in the top of the second when Carissa Padgett led off with a walk and advanced to second on a passed ball. Laura Durham reached on an error. A sacrifice fly by Savanna Miracle scored Padgett. Smith then got the next two batters out to end the inning.
The Lady Cards tacked three more runs on in the bottom of the second with all three coming off the bat of Johnson, who smacked a three-run homer with Wemes and Williams on the bases, and the score was now 5-1.
“That was the only line drive we hit all game,” Burns said. “Our swings looked horrible. We are trying to hit everything over the fence.”
Middlesboro looked to have something brewing in the top of the third as the Lady Yellowjackets loaded the bases with two outs, but Smith got Durham to look at a called third strike to get out of the inning. Middlesboro left six runners stranded in the game.
The score stayed 5-1 until the top of the fifth when Middlesboro scored as Megan Prater reached on an error, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and scored when Lauren Spurlock doubled to right-center.
The Lady Cards tried to add to their lead in the home half of the inning as just like Middlesboro in the third, South Laurel had the bases loaded with two outs as Bailey Miller doubled, Smith singled, and Wemes walked, but Jessica Carter struck out Nell Murray to end the threat. South also stranded six runners.
Middlesboro opened up the top of the sixth with a single by Durham and a double by Miracle, which scored Kadi Ordell, who had some in as a courtesy runner for Durham. When Miracle advanced to third on a ground out by Tiffany Howerton, Shae Moyers was brought in to run for Miracle. That move worked as she scored on a wild pitch to cut the lead to 5-4.
The Lady Cards made it 6-4 in the bottom of the inning when, with one out, Johnson singled, stole second, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Vandeventer and scored on a double by Hyde.
Middlesboro got one runner on with two outs in the top of the seventh, but Smith struck out Padgett to end the game. She fanned six batters in the game and walked three.
“We got lucky on a couple of bloops,” Burns said. “Our defense was shaky. It kind of worries me a little. This time of year you’ve hit about 7,000 balls at least. Our swings outta be in tune, but we are a little off. I hope it’s an aberration. If not we’re in trouble.”
The Lady Cards were scheduled to travel to Estill County for a doubleheader tonight for the regular season finale.