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There’s nothing like a win over a border rival to get your season moving in the right direction. The Lady Panthers (1-3) notched their first victory of the season Friday night, 8-7, over the visiting Lady Raiders (1-3).
Carroll lost to Trimble three times last year, twice during the regular season and during the All-A tournament, by a combined run total of 24-5. Despite missing their starting pitcher and two senior starters to illness, the young Lady Panthers were not intimidated by their rivals.
Trimble opened the game with a 1-0 lead in the first inning, but Carroll roared out of the gate in the bottom of the third. Freshmen Kelsey Ogden, Mackenzie Ogden and Kayla Williamson all hit doubles back-to-back-to-back, followed by an RBI grounder to the shortstop by freshman Hannah McEndre to give Carroll the 2-1 lead. With bases loaded, freshman Brittany Yocum hit a flyball to right field to score two more, 4-1.
The Lady Raiders closed the gap in the next inning after junior Katie Temple reached third after hitting a ground ball to second base and Carroll committed two throwing errors. Junior McKenzie Dunlap hit an RBI single between shortstop and third base, scoring a run. Eighth grader Kayla Baker followed with a ground out to shortstop, but it was enough to score with runners in position, closing the gap at 4-3.
The visitors took the lead in the top of the fifth on a two-RBI triple by senior Raegan Black, 5-4, and added on in the top of the sixth. Baker hit a single to center field, but reached second base on a fielding error. Sophomore Hannah Roberts hit her in with a triple to left center. Freshman Jesse Dunlap reached on an error, but managed to score another RBI on her hit to third base, 7-4.
Both teams went down 1-2-3 before the Lady Panthers had one last shot at the win. The Ogdens started things off with singles to right and left field, respectively. McEndre hit a blooper single over first base that turned into an RBI double on a bad throw, 7-5.
With two outs, freshman Sarah Hawkins hit an RBI single, pulling the Lady Panthers within one and becoming the game-winning run. Next up to bat, Yocum was hit by the pitch, loading the bases. In the middle of eighth grader Mackenzi Hawkins’ at bat, a passed ball allowed McEndre to score and tie the game at 7-7.
Hawkins took a walk, loading the bases again for eighth grader Michaela Roberts. After battling pitch after pitch, Roberts came through for the team, hitting a single between shortstop and third base to give Carroll the victory.
“(Michaela is) getting an opportunity that not a lot of eighth graders get to do, and I understand that it can be a very intimidating task for her, but you saw she’s a gamer,” Carroll head coach Ken Blair said. “She’s what we like to call a gamer and that was a big hit right there for us, from an eighth grader. Game-winning hit from an eighth grader.”
Blair said hitting has been a point of emphasis with his team thus far. “We are hitting the ball very well,” Blair said. “When I first came here they said that they couldn’t hit, and I knew that was one thing we could do a lot better at and we focused on it really hard.”
“They (Carroll County) hit the ball real well, and we were not able to make an out when we needed one,” Trimble head coach Walter McHargue said. “That’s been the story every time we’ve played.”
While the sticks may be rolling for the Lady Panthers, their fielding still needs some work. Blair admitted that they may have focused too much on hitting and not enough on defense. “Now we’ve got to come back around and focus a bit more on the fielding and the simple, routine plays,” he said. “If we make those, we can stay in games, but you know, nobody’s asking these girls to do anything spectacular. We’ve just got to get the routine plays.”
McHargue also did not have much positive to say about his team’s defense. “We didn’t play very well. We didn’t get solid play defensively. Our pitching is not up to what it should be right now. Our best pitcher (Leyna Ritter) suffered a shoulder injury earlier, and she won’t be back until after spring break. So that’s been a stumbling block for us. The girl that is pitching for us now is working real hard but we haven’t been playing consistently.”
Overall, Blair acknowledged that his team is very young, but is undefeated on the JV level when playing with their peers. “Well, we obviously still have a lot to work on,” Blair said. “We had a team that’s more evenly matched with us this time, and we tried to give it to them. We tried to give it back to them with our simple plays that we should have made a play on. Clearly they’re uncoached. So we’ve got a lot of things to work on, and we’re just going to keep trying to get better and keep trying to improve every day. That’s our goal.”