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Led by junior Michaela Culver, who launched two home runs over the center field fence, the Lady Panthers softball team defeated the visiting Henry County Ladycats, 11-1, in six innings on April 9.
Culver hit solo home runs in the second and fourth innings, as well as an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth to end the game.
“It was a great game, a good win, and I’m glad to get it,” head coach Dennis Hawkins said.
Hawkins said Culver had been struggling batting in the fourth position, so he moved her down to sixth to take a little bit of the pressure off. “We had been working hard in practice trying to change the techniques in her swing because she was getting anxious and frustrated and getting out in front of the ball,” he said. “So we tried to do some things to change it around, which got the pressure off of her and now she’s responding.
“She cleared it,” he said of Culver’s home runs. “Of course, the wind helped her some, but that would have still gone out had there been no wind. It was unbelievable.”
The Lady Panthers swung the bat and ran the bases well, collecting 14 hits on the day, while pitcher Sarah Hawkins did a good job of keeping Henry’s hits in the infield. Carroll committed a few uncharacteristic fielding errors, but they did enough at the plate to keep it from hurting them.
The Ladycats threatened in the top of the first, as a walk and two fielder’s choice plays and a single put runners at the corners with two outs. But the Lady Panthers executed on a pickoff play, throwing to shortstop Mackenzie Ogden to hold the base runner at first, who then threw down to catcher Mackenzi Hawkins to tag the runner at the plate to get them out of the jam.
Carroll got on the scoreboard first with Culver’s solo home run in the bottom of the second. The girls added to their lead in the next inning. Jenah Roberts hit a leadoff double to center and then advanced to third on a passed ball. Mackenzie Ogden hit a double to centerfield to bring Roberts home, 2-0. Kayla Williamson hit a single over the second base bag to put runners on the corners. Kelsey Ogden hit a sac fly to left to score her cousin at third, 3-0.
An error and a bang-bang play at second that did not go Carroll’s way put two runners on for Henry in the top of the fourth. Shelby Ray hit a line drive down the first base line that was not fielded, allowing a run to score, 3-1. But Carroll’s defense held upfrom there, allowing no more runs to cross the plate.
Culver shook off her error and hit a leadoff home run to almost the exact same spot in center field. Brittany Yocum and Roberts followed with walks, and Haley Dermon bunted them around to scoring position. Mackenzie Ogden hit a standup double that hit the center field fence, scoring two runs, 6-1.
Henry County made a pitching change, bringing in Krista Deburger for starter Alyson Stanley. Williamson hit an RBI single over the second base bag, 7-1. Kelsey Ogden followed with another double to center. With runners on second and third, Deburger was called for an illegal pitch, allowing Williamson to score.
But Henry wouldn’t go down without a fight. In the top of the fifth, Stanley hit a leadoff single up the middle. Paige Deburger singled and Krista Deburger reached on a fielding error, loading the bases. Carroll’s defense withstood the test. Mackenzie Ogden threw down to Mackenzi Hawkins at home for out number one, followed by a fly out to Dermon in right and another grounder to Mackenzie Ogden to end the inning.
The Lady Panthers closed out the game in the bottom of the sixth. Williamson led off with a double to center, followed by a single by Kelsey Ogden. Sarah Hawkins hit a fly to center that bounced off the center fielder’s glove, allowing both runs to score, 10-1. Cheyenne Lawrence checked in as a courtesy runner, and Culver’s single brought her home to end the game.
“We finally started hitting the ball and running bases,” coach Hawkins said. “We still made a lot of mistakes, but I guess pitching, again, pitched (us) out of some jams. (Sarah) didn’t make some pitches that I wanted her to make, but I guess at the end of the day, she made enough to make it count.”
Sarah Hawkins pitched all six innings, with two strikeouts and two walks. “She keeps the ball on the ground where we’ve got a chance to reach it,” coach Hawkins said.
Williamson was a perfect 4-4 from the plate, with three singles, a double and an RBI. Mackenzie Ogden was 3-4 (two doubles and one single) with three RBIs. Kelsey Ogden was 2-3 (one single, one double) with an RBI. Sarah Hawkins was 1-3 with the two-RBI double and a walk, while Jenah Roberts was 1-2 with a double and a walk.
“(This) was a district game and it was a big game,” Hawkins said. “Everybody from top to bottom, whether they made a catch, got on, moved the ball, put the ball in play, it was a team effort.”