After 3 1/2 innings, South Laurel trailed 5-0 against Madison Central and had managed just a pair of harmless singles. Coach James Burns kept telling his team to relax and hit the ball.
“We have been hitting the ball late in the games,” Burns said.
The Lady Cardinals showed the coach’s confidence was not misplaced with seven runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. But a 7-5 lead would not be enough. Madison Central scored five runs in the fifth inning to retake the lead.
“(Madison Central) is a good hitting team,” Burns said. “Our pitchers didn’t pitch great, but they are freshmen and sophomores.”
South Laurel got on another roll in the bottom of the sixth inning. A six-run inning gave them a 13-10 lead.
“I thought we were alright,” Burns said. But Madison Central would answer again.
Madison Central scored twice in the seventh inning and had the tying run on first with one out. This time the Lady Cardinals would wiggle out for the 13-12 win.
“We didn’t give up. We battled through some adversity,” Burns said.
The adversity was not confined to the softball field. The Lady Cardinals were playing for the first time since junior pitcher Destinee Fisher left the team. She told the coaches she was just did not want to play anymore.
“This is the first time we have been on the field since she decided not to play and the girls came out with a great attitude and battled against a very good team,” Burns said.
It was the eighth straight win for the Lady Cardinals, but none will be remembered quite like Thursday’s win.
“That’s a team win alright. You can’t say it was one person. We had so many that came through,” Burns said.
Much of the pressure early settled on freshman pitcher Hagan Burns. Burns gave up an RBI double in the first inning and an unearned run in the second. In the third inning she allowed two more runs and took a hard shot off her shin. After four at-bats, the Lady Indians had seven hits and five runs.
“I thought Hagan felt a little bit of the pressure early, but she lightened up,” Burns said.
The bottom of the fourth inning did a lot to ease the pressure. Jamie Baker led off with a walk, followed by singles for Carly Bowling and Cassandra Johnson. Johnson’s single drove in the first run. Amber Hyde doubled home a pair of runs in the inning. Baker made her second at bat of the inning and singled home two runs, including the go-ahead run. Bailey Miller and Alexandria Miller also drove in runs in the inning.
The fifth inning opened with poor defense and ended with great defense. An error opened the door to what would be a five-run inning that saw Madison Central regain a 10-7 lead. It would have been worse if not for a dramatic catch by Johnson to end the inning. With her back to the centerfield fence, she stretched as high as she could. Johnson got enough of the ball to keep it from hitting the fence and then caught it before it hit the ground.
In the sixth inning, it would be Taylor Martin with the fancy glove work, scooping a low liner off her shoe tops.
“We made some good defensive plays and we let some fall that we probably could have caught,” Burns said.
The bats rallied again in the sixth inning. Hyde singled with one out in the sixth inning, her fourth hit of the game.
“Amber Hyde, this is the first game she had led off and she gets on every time,” Burns said.
Martin doubled off the centerfield fence to score Hyde.
Jamie Baker walked to put the tying run on base. With two outs, Johnson singled to drive in both runners and tie the game. Megan Smith broke the tie with an RBI single, followed by a walk to Casie Finley. Both runners scored when Alexandria Miller doubled off the centerfield fence.
Three quick hits in the seventh had Madison Central within a run with one out. The tying run would not get off first base. A fielder’s choice and fly ball finally ended the game.
“I guess that’s as proud of a team as I have ever been right there,” Burns said.
He said it might be the type of game that carries more significance than just another mark in the win column.
“Every team has a signature win. Something you look back on,” Burns said.
Sports Writer Mitch Howard can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.