That’s what Coach Kaye Smith said her team made with a 9-0 win over Middlesboro in the semi-finals of the 13th Region softball tournament Tuesday night at Bell County.
“I’m pleased with the way we came and took care of business,” the South Laurel coach said. “Hopefully we can carry this momentum into the championship game against North Laurel.” That game was played last night, too late for this edition. The Cards beat the Jaguars 7-0 in their only meeting this season. Editor's Note: North Laurel won 9-2 to advance to the state tournament.
The game with Middlesboro was a rematch of last year’s region title game, and even though the score was different, the result was the same, with South Laurel walking away winners.
Porsha Justice and Emily Gaines combined to shutout the Lady Yellow Jackets. Justice started, going five innings, allowing no runs on two hits and striking out six to get the win. Gaines pitched two innings, striking out one.
“Porsha came out determined,” Smith said. “When you have that along with talent, and mental toughness, you can pull out a big game. Porsha has that.”
While the South pitchers were keeping Middlesboro at bay, the offense was doing its job, scoring nine runs on 10 hits. They were also helped along by four Middlesboro errors.
“This is one of the best-hitting teams we’ve had, from top to bottom,” Smith said. “We’ve worked hard at it this year. And Jimison (Middlesboro’s pitcher) did a good job. We were just selective on our pitches to hit.”
After holding Middlesboro scoreless in the top of the first, it looked like South Laurel might break things open in the bottom of the inning, putting two runners on with two outs as Lauren Wombles and Justice hit back-to-back singles. But Jimison got Johnna Sizemore to ground out to end the threat.
Middlesboro’s T. Ford doubled with one out in the top of the second, but was left stranded as Justice got the next two batters out. The Cards then struck for four runs in the bottom of the second to take an early 4-0 lead.
Vanessa Arthur got things started with a single, and she was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ashley Stock. Candace Kirby then beat out an infield single, putting runners on the corners for Morgan Johnson, who responded with a single to right that scored Arthur for a 1-0 lead.
Gaines then line a hard shot off the glove of the Middlesboro shortstop, bringing Kirby home. Johnson then scored on a wild pitch to increase the lead to 3-0. A single by Wombles scored Gaines as South’s lead grew to 4-0.
Two more runs were added in the third as Sizemore and Arthur both came home to up the lead to 6-0. Jamie Wyatt reached on an error to lead off the fourth inning and later scored on a groundout by Justice to make it 7-0.
The final two Cardinal runs came in the sixth when Johnson singled and scored on a single by Wyatt, and Gaines, who reached on an error, scored when Wombles grounded out, and South Laurel advanced to the championship game with a 9-0 win over Middlesboro.