Things got a little dicey for the McCracken County softball team as it was looking to close out a win over visiting Marshall County on Tuesday. But Bailey Watts made a big play to help the Lady Mustangs hang on for a 6-3 victory.
Watts, a junior, played a fly ball hit by Marshall senior Riley Piercefield perfectly, making a diving grab of the ball in centerfield to secure the final out of the game and stave off the Lady Marshals’ last-gasp rally.
“I told the pitcher that she needed to go out there and give her (Watts) a big hug because that sure was a big catch, especially with runners on first and second and the middle of their lineup coming up,” McCracken head coach Tony Hayden said.
Trailing 6-1 going into the top of the seventh inning, the Lady Marshals (6-3) didn’t go down without a fight. Back-to-back one-out singles from senior McKenzie Elkins and junior Charley Pursley put runners on the bases, and sophomore Anna Vasseur advanced them to second and third via a sacrifice bunt. Senior Sarenna Tomassi followed with a two-RBI single to cut the deficit to three, and senior Kinley Edwards drew a walk before Watts shut the door on the comeback.
The Lady Marshals were finally having some success against McCracken sophomore pitcher Annie White, but it was too little too late. White gave up the three hits and two runs in that seventh inning but otherwise pitched a solid game. Over seven innings, she allowed the three runs on seven hits, three walks and a hit batter while striking out seven.
“I just wanted Annie to be able to finish the game,” Hayden said of the game’s ending. “Our pitchers just need to learn how to finish.”
White also led the Lady Mustangs (7-2) offensively, recording a pair of singles along with three RBIs.
“Annie helped herself a whole lot during the game with her bat. I was real pleased with that,” Hayden said.
McCracken junior Ariel Fox and freshman K.G. Walker each recorded an RBI in the game, and sophomore Ally Hutchins reached base three teams via a single, walk and hit-by-pitch. Hutchins also had three of the Lady Mustangs’ nine stolen bases in the game.
“We knew we had an advantage in that part of the game, and we took full advantage of it,” Hayden said of his team’s success on the base paths.
Facing Marshall freshman pitcher Gracelyn Darnall, the Lady Mustangs got out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Hutchins hit a two-out single, stole second base and proceeded to come around to score on an errant pickoff throw.
McCracken tacked on two more runs in third frame on a single from White that scored Fox and Hutchins. The lead grew to 5-0 in the fifth inning courtesy of back-to-back RBI singles from White and Walker.
The Lady Marshals scored their first run of the game in the top of the sixth inning following a leadoff infield single from Vasseur. Edwards added a one-out walk and was substituted for a courtesy runner in senior Layne Pea. On a double steal attempt, Vasseur was tagged out at third while Pea advanced to second, and the latter moved to third on a passed ball. Pea then scored when Piercefield reached base courtesy of a McCracken error.
McCracken increased its lead back to five, 6-1, in the bottom of the sixth inning on an RBI sacrifice fly from Fox, and that margin gave them plenty of wiggle room for the final half-inning.
Tomassi (walk, single, 2 RBIs), Edwards (2 walks, single) and freshman Chloe Coursey (2 singles) led the way offensively for the Lady Marshals. In the circle, Darnall allowed five runs on six hits, one walk and one hit batter while striking out one over five innings. Junior Tia Thorpe pitched the remaining inning, giving up one run on one hit.
Despite committing four errors, the Lady Marshals made some solid defensive plays on some hard-hit fly balls off the Lady Mustangs’ bats. Elkins made the play of the night for the Marshall defense with her diving grab of a ball hit to the centerfield fence in the bottom of the second inning.
“We know we can hit the ball out of the park, but their centerfielder (Elkins) made a great catch — one of the best plays I’ve seen in a long time on this field,” Hayden said.