Jessica Carter singled home courtesy runner Morgan Thompson with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Middlesboro Lady Jackets to a 1-0 win over Pineville on Tuesday.
“It seemed like the whole night was a battle between the pitchers. It was an awesome game to participate in, to watch and to coach. We just came out on the wrong end of the scoreboard,” Lady Lion coach Shari Knuckles said. “My girls gave 110-percent and I felt like they represented Pineville well.”
Lady Jacket freshman Madison Shields started the winning rally by slapping a base hit through the right side with one out. Tiffany Howerton followed with a hard grounder to first where Brandy Sanders elected to take the sure out as Thompson advanced to second.
“We always want to try and get the lead runner. But on a situation like that where it was more of line drive that just popped out of her glove, the runner had a pretty good jump on us so you take option B,” Knuckles said.
Carter then dropped a clean base hit to left and Thompson scored easily from second to bring an end to the tightly contested game.
Shields gave up just four hits in the nine-inning shutout. She struck out 13 and walked one.
“Madison is a freshman who moved back here from Knoxville with her mom and she’s a great asset for us,” MHS coach Luster Powers said. “She’s a great kid and plays hard all the time. It was a battle and she stayed right there and battled with them. I thought about taking her out after the seventh, but she was still going strong and they weren’t really hitting her so why change. We just stuck with her and went right at them.”
Lady Lion senior Rebecca Lee-Theis nearly matched her pitch for pitch until the bottom of the ninth. Over 8-2/3 innings, she gave up just the one run on six hits while striking out nine and not walking a batter.
“She has improved 100-percent from before. She just kept us off balance and we never really hit her hard all night, ” Powers said of Lee-Theis. “Then when we did hit it good it was right at ‘em. That’s the way the game goes sometimes.”
Erica Gambrell dribbled a single through the right side with one out in the top of the first inning but Shields retired the next nine batters in order, including a string of six straight strike outs. Lizzie Lee-Theis and Rebekah Hoskins roped back-to-back hard singles to right with one out in the fourth. But Shields came back to strike out Rebecca Lee-Theis on a 3-2 pitch after she had fouled off a few third strikes, then got Brooke Sanders to hit a dribbler off the front edge of the plate that Carter fielded along the first base line for an unassisted put-out to end the inning.
Meanwhile, the Middlesboro offense wasn’t faring much better. Lauren Spurlock clubbed a double to the left-field fence with two out in the bottom of the first, but Lee-Theis struck out Shields to end that inning. Carter singled in the second but was left standed there. In the third, Bailey Hensley reached on an error with one out but was thrown out stealing by Brooke Sanders. That proved to be a huge play as Laura Durham followed with a hard shot to right that got past a diving Kelsey Goodin and rolled to the fence for a triple. Spurlock’s hard grounder was snared by Lizzie Lee-Theis at second and she threw on to first to end the inning.
Lady Jacket senior Amanda Biscardi singled up the middle in the fifth inning and reached on an error in the seventh for the only other Middlesboro base runners until the bottom of the ninth.
Pineville mounted another threat in their half of the fifth when Brandy Sanders walked with one out and Emily Mullins reached on an error with two down. Shields finally got the best of Gambrell by getting her to swing and miss on a 3-2 pitch after the longest at bat of the night. Gambrell fouled off four 3-2 offerings before going down to end the inning.
Lizzie Lee-Theis reached on an error to open the sixth inning, but Middlesboro shortstop Shae Moyers beat her to the bag after fielding a grounder for the second out. Second baseman Tiffany Howerton then stayed with a Brooke Sanders grounder after bobbling it and recovered in time to throw on to Carter for the third out.
Rebecca Lee-Theis poked a base hit to right with one out in the top of the ninth and courtesy runner Sophia Knuckles advanced to second on Sanders’ ground out to second. But the Lady Lions could never advance a runner to third, let alone score. As Shields got her 13th strikeout to end the inning.
Carter came through with the game-winning hit in the bottom of the frame.
“Jess battles up there at the plate. She hits it hard and usually makes contact,” Powers said. “Right now we’re just off a little bit on our hitting and can’t seem to get the bat on it solid. (The game-winner) wasn’t even that hard of a hit, it was just a bloop into the outfield, but sometimes that’s all you need to win a game.”
Both teams return to action on Thursday with Middlesboro (5-2) at Knox Central and Pineville (3-3) at Harlan.
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|Rebecca Lee-Theis and Brooke Sanders; Madison Shields and Laura Durham. W — Shields. L-Lee-Theis.|