Lady 'Horns trip 'Dogs

By Michelle Pope

   MOUNTAIN CITY -- The Johnson County softball team defeated Hampton 8-2 on Tuesday as Lady Longhorn sophomore pitcher Katie Nelson held the Lady 'Dogs hitless for more than three innings, throwing eight strikeouts and allowing only four hits and one earned run.
   Longhorn catcher Cayla Lewis led Johnson County, batting 3-for-3 with two doubles and 2 RBIs.
   "We played much better today than we did yesterday," said Johnson County coach Dana Smith. "We had a long talk and made a few changes and everybody moved and talked today."
   Of the 39 outs needed to get through half of seven innings and end the game, the ball was caught 20 times on the fly. The Hampton fielders caught 12 of the 20 fly outs.
   "We played strong in the first couple innings," said Hampton coach Pat Kelly. "Then the sixth inning, we made some mistakes that cost us some runs. Overall though, we're putting the pieces together."
   Johnson County took the lead early in the game. After the first two batters popped fly balls straight to Hampton third-baseman Heather Chambers, Amanda Dowell hit a single, and Lewis smacked a double. Amanda Eichhorn had a base hit good for one RBI and stole second before Hampton handed them their third out.
   In the second, April Allen, who went 2-for-3 on the day, made it to second on a hit and steal for Johnson County. In the third, Lacey Oliver was the first Hampton batter to get on base on a Longhorn error.
   The fourth inning was action-packed until the end. Hampton put two runs on the board from two hits, while Johnson County scored three runs on four hits.
   For Hampton, Susan Lovely took first on a walk, and was tagged out at second as Michelle Oaks got on first with a fielder's choice. Three errors at second and third bases and home sent Oaks scampering across the plate for Hampton's first run.
   Lady Bulldog pitcher Melissa Norris had the first hit for Hampton with a single and stole second base. She went home on Oliver's base hit to put Hampton in a 2-1 lead.
   In the bottom of the fourth, Ashleigh Maze and Allen hit singles, followed by a base hit by Charley Hodge to load the bases. Dowell made it to first on an error as Maze scored. A combination of a hit from Lewis and a Bulldog error sent Allen and Hodge home to give Johnson County a total of four runs.
   "We're still a very young team," said Kelly. "There are a lot of freshmen and sophomores, so it was a learning experience."
   In the sixth, Lauren Pitman made it to third base on two Longhorn errors, but a fly out to Johnson County shortstop Hodge and a strikeout thrown by Nelson left her stranded on third. The Lady Longhorns wreaked havoc from the plate again in the sixth, doubling their score.
   Sam Henson pinch hit for Maze and took a walk to first. Allen hit a sacrifice bunt to first base to get Henson on second, and Hodge drove her home on a double. Sarah Wright followed suit with a double that sent Hodge home, and Lewis hit one to the center field fence, making it to second and sending Wright home.
   Eichhorn went to first on an error, and drew a fielder's choice as she stole second base and gave Lewis a chance to race across the plate to make the score 8-2.
   Other than Lewis' offensive performance, Hodge batted 2-for-4 with one RBI, and Allen hit 2-of-3. Wright and Eichhorn picked up the other two earned ribbies. Oliver, batting 1-for-2 for Hampton, collected the Lady Bulldogs' only RBI, as Oaks scored the second run on errors.
   "They got the job done when they needed to get the job done," Smith said after the game. "If they keep doing that on a consistent basis, we'll be all right. I'm proud of them. They did good -- they did what I asked them to do today."