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After his team had blown eight leads in the final two innings, first-year LaRue County coach Aaron Howell thought his Lady Hawks could be in line for another late-game setback May 10 while visiting cousin Corey Yates and his John Hardin Lady Bulldogs.
Instead, the Lady Hawks finally caught a break in the top of the ninth inning as junior shortstop Megan Smith reached base on a no-out error and scored two batters later on a groundout by senior right fielder Cassady Crim as they held on for a 6-5 win.
“That showed every play makes a difference,” said Smith, who also had two RBIs. “I think this gives us a shot of confidence but it gave us another warning that anything can happen.”
If “anything” is the failure to maintain a lead, that can and has happened recently and frequently for the Lady Hawks (10-16), who dropped their sixth consecutive game Monday when they blew a 4-3 lead in a 6-4 loss to Marion County. Four days earlier, they wasted a 4-1 lead against Hart County, which cost them No. 2 seed in the 18th District Tournament.
It looked like déjà vu all over again when the Lady Hawks (10-16) let a 3-1 lead slip away in the fifth and a 5-3 advantage with two outs in the seventh fall apart on the third home run of the year by John Hardin senior pitcher Olivia Greenwell.
Greenwell held the Lady Hawks hitless through 3 1/3 innings before freshman first baseman Brigitte Skaggs doubled to score freshman center fielder Peyton Gardner, who drew a leadoff walk.
Behind an opportunistic lineup, the Lady Hawks didn't trail the rest of the way as every batter reached base at least once. The Lady Hawks' 5-9 hitters each had a hit, an RBI or both.
“I know it's kind of cliché, but one player doesn't make a team. But when one player gets a hit, we all start to do good,” said Skaggs
Skaggs was the Lady Hawks' main pitcher before junior Brittany Enlow returned for first complete game of the season.
“I'm glad she's back and her arm's feeling better because it takes the pressure off,” Skaggs said.
The Lady Bulldogs kept the pressure on LaRue County, which swept the regular-season meetings after recording a 13-6 win April 18 in Hodgenville. John Hardin tied it at 3-3 as junior designated hitter Rachel Puckett was hit by a pitch to lead off and scored on the next pitch on an infield throwing error with junior center fielder Catherine Greenwell at bat. Greenwell scored two batters later on her older sister's groundout to short.
LaRue County made four errors, which led to John Hardin's final four runs being unearned for Enlow. After being the Lady Hawks' ace the past few seasons, an injury limited her to 41/2 innings entering Thursday. She wasn't dominant against John Hardin, but she effectively scattered seven hits, walked one and struck out one.
With Enlow's return – pitching-wise, that is, as she was still batting and starting at shortstop – and the newfound ability to keep a lead, Howell believed the game marked a turning point.
“It feels good to get a win again,” Howell said. “When you go through a funk like we were in, you sometimes start to question yourself and the only cure is to get a W, in my opinion at least.”
The visiting Lady Knights scored three runs in the top of the seventh, rallying to hand the Lady Hawks their fifth straight loss (6-4) May 9.
LaRue County, which led 4-3 in the seventh, made five errors that led to five unearned runs for starting pitcher Brigitte Skaggs (6-7). Skaggs gave up five hits and three walks. She struck out two.
Senior Ellen Huff and junior Brittany Enlow each went 2-for-3, while junior Megan Smith, freshman Peyton Gardner and eighth-grader Tristian Cruise each had a single and an RBI.