MANCHESTER – The Manchester softball team had their chances, but couldn’t quite get over the hump to erase a 5-0 deficity to Lucasville Valley, dropping the Southeast Division IV Sectional Title game, 5-4 Thursday in Manchester.
The Lady Hounds put a runner on base in every inning, but struggled from there in the one-run, tough to swallow loss.
“If you got to go down, that’s the way to go down. At least you’re going down fighting. We gave it our best and played a good game. I’m not too disappointed with how we played,” Lady Hounds coach John Kennedy said. “Unfortunately it’s just a one-game playoff and not a seven-game series, but that’s just how it goes sometimes.”
Manchester’s best chances came in the final two innings, first trailing by two in the sixth with runners on second and third and no outs, failing to produce a run from it and then again in the seventh with runners on first and third with one out, plating just one run and keeping them a run shy from tying it.
The early deficit didn’t help much either as the Indians built a 5-0 lead by putting two runs up in the first, one in the third and two in the fourth. Marissa Markins got the scoring started with an RBI single followed by Kirbi Sommers RBI single in the first to give Valley a 2-0 lead.
Another RBI groundout in the third by Sommers made it 3-0. Two more runs were plated in the fourth as Margaret Caldwell reached on an error, scoring Madison Williams and Brooklyn Weeks followed by scoring on a passed ball.
Meanwhile, the Lady Hounds had collected five hits and left four runners on base up to that point.
“We were notorious for that this year, we were notorious for our slow starts,” Kennedy said. “But to our kids credit they fight back all the time and just came up a little short against a really good team today.”
They were finally able to scratch a run across in the fourth when Katie Sandlin scored on Yasmin Lucas’ RBI single, making it 5-1.
Manchester made it 5-2 in the fifth when Josie Campbell’s RBI single plated Aalyiah Smith.
The momentum would continue to build for the Lady Hounds in the sixth when Lucas singled home pinch-runner Abby Young to make it 5-3. After courtesy runner Taylor Morrison stole second, the Lady Hounds had Madison Jones at third and Morrison at second, representing the tying run with no outs.
Valley pitcher Faith Brown would lock in from there, striking out pinch-hitter Kya Taylor and Smith for two outs. Karley Young then sent a shot to right field, but Abby Stone made a sno-cone type catch with the ball nearly escaping the glove for what would tie the game up, but it went for the third out instead.
“She made a heck of a catch, game of inches,” Kennedy said.
Brooke Kennedy retired the final seven batters, sending Manchester back to the plate with one last chance with the heart of the order up in Kennedy, Campbell and Sandlin.
“Brooke is a freshman, pitched the whole game and thought she pitched really well,” Kennedy said.
Brooke Kennedy hit a flyout to the warning track in center for the first out. Campbell followed with a double down the left field line, Sandlin reached on an error to set up runners on the corners and one out. Abby Young then struck out, leaving the Lady Hounds down to their final out. Kennedy had pondered sending Sandlin from first to put the tying run in scoring position, but decided to go agaisnt it.
“We were thinking about it, but we didn’t want to run into an out there. Catcher had a good arm. We didn’t want to make the out there though,” Kennedy said.
Madison Jones stepped up to the plate and roped a single to right center, scoring Campbell and sending Sandlin to third, representing the tying run. The rally would stop there as Brown got Lucas to fly out for the final out of the contest, ending the Lady Hounds season at 9-11.
“Our record was only 9-11, but we had nine games cancel on us due to the weather, winnable games. We were much better than our record, suffered through some injuries, but the future is bright,” Kennedy said.
The team will now have to look at replacing five seniors, but have a lot of optimisim moving forward with some youth stepping up in the season.
“We lose Katie, Karley, Kya, McKinlee Grooms and Jennifer Scott. But we started three freshman tonight, have a few freshman who came off the bench that will start for us next year. We’re pretty young. “We”ve got some talent from junior high coming up, we’ll add a couple pieces from the junior high that will fit in. Future is bright, we’ll have a good summer and keep growing.”
The Lady Hounds left 10 runners on base in the contest and recorded 12 hits to Valley’s nine. Smith, Campbell, Sandlin, Grooms and Lucas recorded two hits apiece while Lucas drove in two runs, Campbell and Jones the others.
Kennedy’s complete game outing in the circle resulted in nine hits allowed, four earned runs, two walks and four strikeouts.
Valley advances to the district semifinals to take on Eastern Meigs at University of Rio Grande on May 17.
2B- (V) Kuhn (M) Campbell
3B- (V) Markins
RBI- (V) Sommers 2, Markins, Caldwell (M) Lucas 2, Campbell, Jones
LOB- Valley 7, Manchester 10
WP- Brown. LP- Kennedy
Records: Valley N/A, Manchester 9-11