The Hixson Lady Wildcats may have one of the most improved softball teams in Hamilton County and they proved it on Monday evening at Sale Creek’s Ruth and Clifford Kirk Field.
Trailing 5-1 after five innings, Hixson scored four runs to tie the game with two outs in the sixth before winning it with another run in the seventh.
Hixson improves to 8-5 while Sale Creek is now 1-3.
Hixson coach Ricky Ritchie knows that his team doesn’t play flawless softball by any stretch, but they continue to get better and they’re willing to battle from the first pitch to the last, which is something they haven’t been willing to do in recent years.
“That’s what we’re trying to do,” Ritchie said shortly after his team won with a spirited comeback.
“We’re trying to get used to playing seven innings, but we had to have some discipline at the plate late and we got it. We were in desperate need of base runners late and that made a difference at the end.
“We’re just focused on getting better one game at a time. We aren’t there yet, but we’re headed in the right direction,” he added.
It’s been a tough start for Sale Creek coach Kristen Dodson, who has one of the youngest teams in Lady Panther history with five freshmen and three eighth graders. With only two seniors on the roster, Sale Creek will take their share of lumps, but you can bet they will be a forced to be dealt with by tournament time.
“We’ll be back at it tomorrow, but we’re younger than we’ve been in a while. The good news is that we played hard for all seven innings and we just kept battling. I’m proud of what we did for the most part, but we’re still trying to get more experience and it’s tough at times,” she added.
Hixson loaded the bases with nobody out to start the game, but were able to get just one run.
Allison McDaniel reached on an error to start things off before Ryleigh Quarles singled up the middle. Meg Kernea got hit by a pitch to load the sacks before a fielder’s choice grounder to second by Connie Schalk drove in the only run.
Sale Creek took the lead with two runs in the second, Kenzie Baker driving in the first with a single to left before McKenlei Gamble scored on the back side of a double steal.
The difference was 5-1 after Sale Creek added three more runs in the fifth, Madi Beene having the big blow with a two-run double.
In seasons past, Hixson would have rolled over and tossed in the white towel, but that wasn’t the plan in this game.
Sale Creek got two quick outs before the Lady Wildcats went to work.
Pinch hitter Ella Lee led off by getting hit by a pitch while Isabell Stewart walked to put runners on first and second.
Beth Moore, who hit a couple of foul-ball rockets down the line in left in an early time at the plate, ripped a two-run double just inside the line to cut that four-run lead in half.
Savannah Martin and McDaniel then followed with RBI-singles to knot the score.
Lexi Turner, Hixson’s second pitcher who is a talented freshman, allowed a leadoff single to Cassie Wilson, who went to second when the ball was misplayed in left. That threat didn’t last long as she was thrown out at third on the next pitch and Turner was able to retire the next two hitters without incident.
Hixson scored the game-winner in the seventh.
Quarles led off with a walk and scored what turned out to be the winning run on a double by Kernea.
The next two Hixson batters grounded out, but the damage had been done and the ball was in Turner’s hand to determine the game’s outcome.
She got Abby Gordon on a swinging strikeout before Lexi Raines flied to center for the second out. Brooke Williford then popped to Moore at first to end the game.
Turner was the winning pitcher in relief of Martin, who hurled the first three innings. Raines was the tough-luck loser after giving up the winning run on four hits in two innings of work.
Quarles and Martin both had two hits for Hixson while Williford and Wilson both had two hits for Sale Creek.
These two teams will be back in action on Tuesday with Hixson traveling to East Hamilton and Sale Creek hosting Meigs County.
HIXSON 100 004 1 – 6 7 3
SALE CREEK 020 030 0 – 5 8 2
Martin, Turner (4) and McDaniel; Wilson, Raines (6) and Williford.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)