It was classic softball action Monday afternoon as two tough pitchers, two stingy defenses and some hot bats went into extra innings for a decision as Harrison Central rallied in the eighth inning to hand Bellaire its first defeat, 7-3.
The first round went to the Lady Big Reds as Mackenzie Conroy sent a round trip ticket over the left field fence scoring Megan Ging who reached on the Huskies only error of the contest.
"Conroy steps up in the first inning and strokes a homer. She has been hitting the ball well," said veteran Bellaire softball coach Melissa Lahna. "It seemed like maybe we got the breaks early."
T-L Photo/MIKE PALMER
Bellaire catcher Dallas Messenger successfully blocks the plate as Harrison Central's Emily Dodds is called out after a run down. Harrison Central prevailed, 7-3. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
The Big Red defense would keep their guests off the scoreboard until the third inning when Harrison Central's bats came to life in a big way. Emily Dodds reached on a fielders choice then Kylie Staley, Kara Dunfee and Katie Ellzy ripped back-to-back-to-back RBI doubles to put the Blue and Silver up 3-2.
The lead was short-lived as Bellaire's Katie Zeller singled to start off the bottom of the frame. Dallas Messenger would lay down a sacrifice bunt to move Zeller into scoring position and Ging pushed her across with an RBI single to right-center.
The score would remain knotted as the two teams stalemated the next four innings to require the extra frame.
Ging, who had faced 28 batters striking out three, issued her first walk of the contest to start the eighth. Kara Dunfee would reach on the second error of the night for the Lady Reds then Katie Ellzy got a free pass to load the bases.
Jessica Custer came to the plate 0-for-3. She had struck out, popped up to the infield and hit a line drive that Bellaire second baseman Morgan Runyan caught and turned into a twin killing eliminating Ellzy diving back into first.
"We just moved her into the number five spot before the game," said Harrison Central head coach Don Bethel. "We were not getting production out of number five, Jess can hit, so we gave her a shot and she came through with a huge hit, not a big hit."
The left hander broke open the flood gates as she pulled a shot down the right field line that bounced into the corner for a bases-clearing triple.
"It is a game of inches," Lahna said philosophically. "If we get the out at home or if we get an inch or two here or there had gone our way we could have ran away with this one early, but sometimes that is how the inches fall."
The Huskies added the insurance run as Shianne Nameth earned an RBI pushing Custer across the dish.
In the bottom of the inning the inches once again would go the way of the Huskies as center fielder Paige Dunlap made a running catch at the fence to take away an extra base hit and help seal the win.
"There is nothing we could have done any differently. We played solid the entire game," added Lahna. "Truthfully, I do not see it as a negative. I am proud of our girls, we fought down to the wire, we hit the ball, fielded the ball it was the inches that killed us today."
Ging struck out three batters and issued one walk taking her first loss while Ellzy used a wicked change-up, fanning nine Big Red batters.
"I am impressed with Bellaire. I tip my hat to them," complimented Bethel. "Coach Lahna has them playing very well and it is a shame that we only meet once this season."
"The loss is out of the way," Lahna warned. "Look out for the rest of the season. The Big Reds are coming full force."
Harrison 003 000 04 - 7 10 1
Bellaire 201 000 00 - 3 4 2
Batteries: Ellzy and Dodds, Caldwell (5). Ging and Messenger.
Palmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org