Highly-regarded Lady Hilltoppers trim pesky EHS

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   With finally a break in the weather this week, the Elizabethton softball team got the opportunity to try to avenge a loss against Science Hill earlier this season.
   This time around it was a much closer contest, but the ending result was the same, with the Lady Toppers pulling out a 5-2 victory.
   "Elizabethton has a very good team, and I know they're young, but they're a good ball club and they'll continue to get better," said Science Hill coach Bill Bailey. "We played OK, but we need to play better. We're just glad to get out of here with a win."
   The Cyclones pulled ahead by one run during the third frame, but a flurry of hits from Science Hill in the top of the fourth became the deciding factor in the end.
   "I don't exactly know how many hits we got, but when we put them together, then we're OK," said Bailey. "The girls picked it up when they had too. Again you've got to give Elizabethton credit. They'll make some noise in their conference before it's over with."
   Science Hill captured a run in the first inning, when a hit from Alyssa Shoun and drop on the fly in the outfield allowed Elizabeth Meridith to score.
   In the next frame, the Cyclones played a much better defense, as Kristie Keys retired two 'Topper batters with strikeouts.
   "Kristie pitched good -- she was really hitting her spots today," said EHS second baseman Jessica Robinson. "They hit really well, and we had some both good and bad defensive plays, but after we made a couple of errors we picked our heads up and didn't make any more."
   Elizabethton denied the 'Toppers from scoring in the third inning, after Kristie Klem stepped up to the plate to smack a double.
   The bottom of the third belonged to Elizabethton, as the Cyclones capitalized off of three walks from pitcher Ashley Jackson.
   Ball four to Katie Hubbard loaded the bases for Elizabethton with Jessica Robinson next up to bat.
   Robinson connected with a pop-up past the outstretched hand of the second-baseman, with Caitlin Kerley and Keys coming home to give 'Betsy a 2-1 lead.
   "Ashley is tough to hit off of, so I thought we did really good against her," said Robinson.
   The advantage didn't last long, as the 'Toppers came back to score four runs the next frame.
   It started off with a hit to left field from Jackson, and the momentum kept rolling with the first six hitters reaching base.
   "It's kind of weird. Once our team finally starts hitting, then it keeps on going for a while," said Jackson. "We get mean when someone gets started."
   A shot from Hannah Parker to left field drove in Jackson for the tie, and another hit, by Amanda Rader, to shallow center brought home Whitney Hawkins for the go-ahead run.
   The 'Toppers added two more runs, with the last one coming off a sacrafice fly from Britani Fisher, which enabled Parker to tag up and come home.
   "We had that one bad inning there, and that's probably the best team in the area, so you feel good when you can play hard and not give up," said Elizabethton coach Kenny Hardin. "We can build some confidence out of this. These girls are hard workers and I think we're going to do some good things before we're finished here."
   Jackson had a much better outing at the mound in the last four frames she pitched.
   A total of nine strikeouts was thrown by Jackson, with seven of them coming in the final four innings.
   "I had a few things on my mind in the first innings and I didn't pitch that well, but I picked it up in the last innings and was able to get some outs," said Jackson. "I think if we don't loaf around, then we have a good shot at being number one in our conference. We play as a team and we lose as a team."
   The Cyclones had players in scoring position during the fourth and sixth frames, but didn't execute to advance the runners.
   Both Mary Edgar and Maggie Austin were left on base in the bottom of the fourth after reaching the bags with no outs.
   Another squandered opportunity came when Austin crushed a triple to the left-field fence, but two straight outs kept the Cyclones from scoring.
   Elizabethton was unable to make noise during the last frame, as Jackson struck out the two last hitters she faced.
   "We had second and third with nobody out, and then we had third-base with one out, and we could not score either time," said Hardin. "That's the difference in the game, but we'll keep working and come back better the next time."