Opening game jitters and a pretty tough South Laurel team got the best of the Middlesboro Lady Jackets on Tuesday. The Lady Cardinals took control with a six-run third inning and went on to an 18-0 win in the season opener for both teams.
“It’s a tough first game to play. We just weren’t ready to play, I guess,” said Lady Jacket coach Luster Powers. “We didn’t hit the ball well. We put it in play some, but we couldn’t get the top of lineup on and anytime you don’t get the top of the lineup on it hurts you.”
Amber Hyde led the South Laurel attack with four hits, including two doubles, to drive in five runs while Cassandra Johnson drove in four runs and scored three on three hits, including a triple. Hagan Burns added two doubles and was the winning pitcher as she gave up just two hits and a walk while striking out five over five shut-out innings.
Middlesboro got singles from senior first baseman Savanna Miracle in the third and senior shortstop Carissa Padgett in the fourth. Sophomore Makayla Partin was the only other Lady Jacket to reach base on a walk in the third inning.
Sophomore Jessica Carter took the loss as she gave up 18 runs, only nine of which were earned. She walked six and hit a batter and Middlesboro committed five errors behind her.
“She’s a battler. She’ll come back and work hard and she’ll be fine,” Powers said.
Johnson led off the game with a base hit up the middle, but Lady Jacket third baseman Lauren Spurlock snagged a liner by Chelsea Wemes and was able to double Johnson off at first. Hyde and Burns hit back-to-back doubles to give South a 1-0 lead. An error and a walk loaded the bases, but Carter got a strike out to end the inning.
In the second, Madyson Morris and Brittany Vandeventer both walked and advanced into scoring position on wild pitch. Johnson and Wemes followed with RBI ground outs to extend the lead to 3-0.
Meanwhile the first six Lady Jackets were retired in order. South put the game out of reach with six runs in the third. They took advantage of two walks, a hit batter and two errors in the frame. Wemes popped a two-run double and Hyde an RBI single in the inning. The Lady Cardinals went on to the 18-0 win.
“It’s the first game and we’ll be fine, I truly believe that. We got this one under our belt and we’ve got the All ‘A’ starting next week (Tuesday vs. Harlan),” Powers said.
The Lady Jackets will be trying to improve off of last year’s 11-19 record in 2013. They return six starters, including seniors Padgett at shortstop, Kelsie Hensley at catcher, Megan Prater in center and Miracle at first base. The Lady Jackets also welcome back Spurlock, who played at Bell County last season as an 8th grader after coming up through the junior league ranks with many of Middlesboro’s players.
On Tuesday junior Tiffany Howerton played second base while sophomore Makayla Partin in right and freshman Laura Durham serving as the designated player.
“We do have some talented young players to go along with four seniors. It will just take us a little while to get our eye,” Powers added. “It’s hard to get your eye when your not used to facing live pitching. We haven’t been able to get on the field much with the weather and we’ve also had some that have been out due to injuries. I’m not making any excuses — South Laurel has got a great team and they beat the crap out of us. We’ve just got to refocus and play and we’ll see what we’ve got.”
Middlesboro (0-1) will return to action on Friday at Williamsburg and will play at Bell County on Monday in a make-up of Monday’s rainout. South Laurel (1-0) plays at Williamsburg today.
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South Laurel….126 45 — 18 11 0
Middlesboro….000 00 — 0 2 5
Hagan Burns and Amber Hyde; Jessica Carter and Kelsie Hensley. W — Burns. L — Hyde.