Lady 'Dogs win slugfest with Cloudland, 28-18

By Matt Hill

   Rarely is there ever a game where both teams can feel happy about what happened, but such was the case at Hampton's softball field on Monday afternoon.
   Hampton defeated Cloudland 28-18 in a game where both teams saw positives come out of it.
   For the victorious Lady Bulldogs, they were pleased with their 20-run bottom of the sixth that saw them erase an 18-8 deficit.
   Cloudland on the other hand, led by as many as 14 runs at one time.
   Until the sixth inning, you never would have known that the program has struggled to win games or even put runs on the board the last several seasons.
   Cloudland broke a 1-1 tie in the third inning with an amazing 12-run frame that saw the Lady 'Landers garner 10 hits.
   Cloudland was led on the mound by eighth-grader Nicole Cantrell, who pitched more like a junior or senior in the first four innings.
   "This is by far the best group we've had," Cloudland head coach Evangeline Hurter said. "This is probably the first time we've ever scored 18 runs."
   Cantrell cramped up in the fourth inning, and eventually had to give the pitching duties to others. Hurder believes if it wasn't for that, the Lady 'Landers might have pulled off the upset.
   "I think our pitcher wore out," Hurter said. "If our pitcher had hung in there, we would have won the ball game."
   Hampton didn't show much mercy on the 'Landers in sixth inning. Cloudland looked to be comfortably in front, but by the end of the sixth, Cloudland's 10-run advantage had become Hampton's 10-run edge.
   The Lady 'Dogs scored those runs on 11 hits, including the go-ahead hit by Nicole Huggins to bring in Lauren Pittman.
   Huggins thought a lot of heart was shown by the Lady Dogs after getting so far behind.
   "It was a lot of pressure, and we didn't know if we would be able to pull it off," Huggins said. "We got stressed out, we started giving up. But we kept our heads high and pulled through."
   Huggins was glad just to escape with the win after being surprised in the early going.
   "I didn't expect it," Huggins said about how well Cloudland played. "Coming out here from last year, they've improved a lot. I think it caught us off-guard. But it also made us stronger."
   Another reason for the Lady Dogs victory was the pitching of Heather Chambers in the late innings, who also just happened to steal the game-tying base right before Huggins' hit.
   Chambers once again showed her toughness by injuring her ankle running to first base in the sixth inning, then went right back out to pitch in the seventh and shut the 'Landers down.
   "I tried to keep my spirit up, so we could get this one over with and head to the house," Chambers said.
   Chambers, Melissa Norris and Kristeen Newburn topped the Lady 'Dogs with three hits. Doranda Byrd had four hits to top Cloudland, while Cantrell finished with three.
   Tryphena Denton came up with an inside the park homer in the third for Cloudland.
   The Lady Bulldogs will be back at home today against Sullivan North, while the Lady Landers will be in action against Unaka.