Lady Bulldogs trip Cloudland

By Travis Brown
STAR Staff
tbrown@starhq.com

   Softball games are often won or lost by the big inning, and the Cloudland Lady Highlanders learned that lesson the hard way Friday evening in a 16-7 loss to the Hampton Lady Bulldogs.
   The game appeared to be sailing along smoothly until the fifth inning when the Bulldogs erupted.
   Stringing together four hits along with four walks was enough to score seven runs in the frame. From that point on the ballgame was all Bulldogs, en route to a solid win.
   Bulldog skipper Patrick Kelly was pleased with the performance.
   "This was a good win for us," Kelly said. "We've started to come together offensively and defensively."
   The first inning would provide a hint of offense for both teams as a leadoff single by Heather Chambers would turn into a run on a passed ball later in the inning.
   The 'Landers would soon answer in the bottom half of the inning as a walk to Daranda Byrd would cost the 'Dogs. A subsequent double by Jamie Icenhour knotted the contest at 1-1.
   Hampton added two runs in the top half of the second inning, thanks to back-to-back walks to start the inning. Lauren Pitman and Samantha Loveday came around to score to give the 'Dogs a 3-1 lead.
   Cloudland scored in the second but a big inning in the third helped Cloudland pull ahead. Singles by Jessica Lunsford, Jessica Ledford and Misty Baker contributed to the four-run explosion which put Cloudland in front 6-4 heading to the fourth inning.
   Both sides would manufacture runs in the fourth inning, but disaster was on the horizon for Cloudland in the fifth.
   Hampton's offensive exhibition plated seven runs, all of which were earned, to make it a commanding 13-7 lead with momentum swinging firmly in favor of the 'Dogs.
   With Malissa Norris now on the mound, the relief was too much for the Cloudland hitters to handle. Norris did not allow a hit in the final three and two thirds innings, and despite a pair of defensive miscues the Bulldogs were on cruise control.
   The Hampton offense added three insurance runs in the top half of the seventh. The added output was not needed however, as the Bulldogs would coast to the 16-7 victory.
   After the contest Kelly remained optimistic that a turnaround towards tournament time could spell good things for Hampton.
   "We're coming together as a team," Kelly said. "We have cut out the mistakes that young players make and we might steal one in the tournaments."
   The answers have been hard to find at times for the 'Landers head coach Evangeline Hurter, but that does not mean the search has ended.
   Hitting and pitching are the keys," Hurter said. "We've hit the ball well at times, and our confidence was up coming into this game, but we didn't overcome our mistakes."
   The game marks the second win the Bulldogs have posted over the Highlanders this season, as both teams look to solve the kinks heading towards the postseason.