BROOKSVILLE – It was a game where a mental mistake here or an error there could have been the difference maker.
In the end, it was a timely hit from Bracken County’s Olivia Bell in the 10th inning to give Bracken County an 8-7 win over Mason County, their first over the Lady Royals since the 2015 District Championship game.
“Olivia has hit the ball well all year. She’s probably batting around .550 and has improved tremendously. I know in the last couple years she’s struggled and she’s really worked hard and bought into what we’re doing,” Lady Bears coach Brad Riley said. “It was a whole team effort, but Olivia stepped up big in big moments for us today.”
The Lady Royals had their chances though, plenty of them. They’d load the bases in the first and ninth innings with no outs, only to come away with a run in the first.
“We hit the ball hard today and that was promising. That’s part of it. Just struggled in those situations,” Lady Royals coach Adam Sapp said.
Heads up defensive plays from the Lady Bears limited the damage in those frames. They’d have chances of their own to end the contest, stranding two runners on the paths in the seventh and eighth innings searching for the walk-off hit.
Bell finally delivered in the 10th as the game was forced to international softball rules, starting each half-inning with a runner on second base, scoring Kaitlyn Bond with a single to left, Bond scoring from third. In order to keep it at 7-7, the Lady Bears made a force out at home plate in the top half of the 10th to get them there.
Taking a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the third, the Lady Bears put up five runs in the frame to jump out to a 6-2 advantage. Doing the damage in the frame were run scoring hits from Georganna Carpenter, Kaitlyn Wills, Aleah Cummins and Bond. The Lady Royals didn’t do themselves many favors in the frame with two errors committed.
“That inning changed the outcome. We gave up five runs. We don’t give up five runs that inning, we win the game, that simple,” Sapp said. “It’s been one of our biggest problems all year is giving up big innings. We’ve really harped the past couple weeks especially on big innings and we’re just having trouble stopping them right now.”
Mason would battle back though, getting three runs back in the top of the fourth from an Allison Gibbs RBI single followed by a Lexy Cooper two-run double.
After Savnnah Engnes stretched the Bracken lead to 7-5 with an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth, the Lady Royals would bounce right back and tie things up at 7-7 on a Hannah Adkins two-run double in the top of the fifth.
The game would hit a stale mate from there. Olivia Bell settled in pitching, retiring eight straight batters from the fifth to the eighth inning until a Gibbs single ended the streak with one out in the eighth, but would proceed to get the next two batters out.
After a second consecutive inning of leaving two runners on base, it looked as if Mason County was ready to take full advantage in the ninth, getting the first three runners on base. Having them loaded and no outs, the Lady Bears got two force outs at home and a groundout to second base to end the threat, getting the momentum back on their side.
“We both made mistakes today and both made big plays when we had to,” Riley said. “We preach and preach and preach situations like that. The girls stepped up, knew where they had to go, made solid defensive plays, made good throws and that’s why we got out of it and won the game,” Riley said.
Unable to get anything going in the bottom half of the ninth, the Lady Royals started the 10th with a runner on second. A groundout followed by a play at the plate at home in which the runner was called out ended their chances of a run in the 10th.
After a groundout to start the bottom of the 10th to advance Bond to third, Bell’s single to left ended the contest, giving the Lady Bears their eighth straight win of the season to improve to 9-4.
“This one means a lot. It was a battle all the way through. They played hard and props to them. Coach Sapp is doing a great job with them. I’m happy with them, they worked hard, they played hard and we’re fortunate to be on the lucky side of the coin tonight,” Riley said.
The loss dropped the Lady Royals to 3-16 in the season, leaving them with a bad taste in their mouth to a district rival, a team they’re hopeful of seeing in the 39th District Championship, pending how the draw works out.
“This is preparation for district and this is what we’re preparing for. Goal No. 1 is to win the district, nothing today told me it still isn’t an achievable goal. We had one bad inning that cost us the chance to win the game. I’d hope this leaves a bad taste in our mouth and that’s up to the girls,” Sapp said.
2B- (MC) Adkins, Cooper (BC) Bond, Bell, Cummins
3B- (BC) Carpenter, Engnes
RBI- (MC) Adkins 2, Cooper 2, Kidd 2, Gibbs (BC) Bond 2, Engnes, O. Bell, Carpenter, Wills, Cummins, Carpenter
LOB- Mason 11, Bracken 10
WP- O. Bell LP- Cooper
Records: Mason County 3-16, Bracken County 9-4