Morgan Johnson beats out the throw to first base against Clay Co.

PINEVILLE—A six-run first inning, plus an 11 strikeout performance from Emily Gaines, lifted the South Laurel Cardinals to an 11-0 win over Clay County Monday night in the opening round of the 13th Region Softball Tournament at Bell Co.

“Emily did a good job tonight,” Coach Kaye Smith said. “I’m proud of her. The kids did the job to advance. We hit the ball well, and we try to remind them to stay focused, to remember what they are here for. We just get the job done and go home.”

With the win, the Cardinals advanced to last night’s semi-final match-up with Middlesboro, a 10-0 winner over Knox Central. Editor’s Note: The Cardinals won that game and will play North Laurel Thursday night in the finals.

“I’m sure Middlesboro will be tougher,” Smith said. “They always have a good team, but I’m confident in my team to come out and do the best they can do.”

Against Clay Co., they did just that, scoring 11 runs on nine hits to put the Tigers away in five innings. Gaines threw a one-hitter to go along with her 11 strikeouts.

After Gaines fanned the side in the top of the first, South Laurel wasted little time, scoring six runs in the bottom of the inning to take control of the game early.

Gaines led things off with a double and later scored when Porsha Justice singled. A single by Johnna Sizemore brought home Lauren Wombles, who had drawn a one-out walk. Another single, this time by Vanessa Arthur, scoring Justice, Sizemore came around on a ground out by Ashley Stock to make it 4-0. A single by Candace Kirby scored Arthur, and when Morgan Johnson singled, Kirby came home for the sixth run of the inning.

Four more runs crossed home plate in the third to up the Cardinal lead to 10-0. With one out, Kirby single, and Johnson laid down a bunt that Clay misplayed, allowing Kirby to score and Johnson to end up on third. Gaines then drew a walk, bringing Jamie Wyatt to the plate.

Wyatt, who doubled in the second inning but was left stranded on base, reached on an error, which allowed both Johnson and Gaines to score for a 9-0 lead. Wyatt then scored when Wombles grounded out.

The final Cardinal run came in the fifth when Erika Burchett walked and scored on a ground out by Destiny Fisher to make the final 11-0.

“We’ve played tough competition all year long, and hopefully that will help at this time of the year,” Smith said.

13th Region Softball Tournament

at Bell Co.

South Laurel 11, Clay Co. 0

Clay Co. 000 00— 0 1 3

South Laurel 6-4 1x—11 9 2

WP—Gaines. LP—Smith. 2B—Gaines (SL), Wyatt (SL).

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