Late 3-run HR dooms Lady Cyclones in District Tournament Game

Published 4:09 pm Tuesday, May 7, 2024

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By Ron Marvel

Star Correspondent

In district play, everything is magnified: one error, one hit, or one bad call can swing the tide in a game. Tuesday night, a fifth-inning 3-run home run broke open a 2-2 game and sent the Lady Cyclones to an elimination game Tuesday night against Unicoi County.

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Crockett jumped out to an early lead after picking up a run off a Cyclones error in the first and then padding their lead with an additional run in the bottom of the second on a ground ball that skipped past the glove of third baseman Sadie Williams for a hit. The Lady Cyclones answered in the top of the third as Grace Whaley was hit by a pitch and then moved to second on a Mollie Johnson line drive to left. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch, setting Emma O’Quinn up with the RBI opportunity. She did not disappoint, taking an outside pitch to right field to cut the lead to 2-1. Lela Byrd then hit a sac-fly to deep center to plate Johnson, tying the game at two all.

That score held until the fifth inning, although both teams had opportunities to break the stalemate. Each time Crockett threatened, sophomore Lela Byrd seemed to find a way to work out of the inning. In the top of the fifth, Crockett drew a walk and then a single by Madelyn Dulaney; on the first pitch, Crockett’s Julie Maupin took a pitch up in the strike zone to deep center, giving the Lady Pioneers a 5-2 lead.

The Lady Cyclones threatened in both the bottom of the sixth and the seventh but on both occasions, they could not get the base hit they needed. The sixth saw them get runners on first and third as they took advantage of a couple of Pioneer errors but saw the inning end with a strikeout, and then they put runners on second and third bringing the tying run to the plate but Byrd popped out in deep foul territory to end the game.

Mollie Johnson led her team with two hits while Byrd went all seven innings, surrendering just three runs while striking out six. Post-game Head Coach Kenneth Hardin talked about the effort his team showed in the loss and how they are preparing now for the elimination game tonight. “That is no slouch over there, Crockett is a very good team. You and I talked at the beginning of the year about how tough this conference is, but we battled all night long. Mollie has killed the ball all year long and Emma has done her job moving runners. We had runners all over the place tonight and just couldn’t come up with hits when we needed them. We have to come back we are still in it, there are a lot of teams home right now. Take it one game at a time and take a good approach at the plate, we just have to keep working,” Hardin shared.