The pitching of Olivia Bell and the bat of Natalie Bell showed up in the first game of the postseason.
Olivia Bell struck out eight batters in four innings in an 18-1 victory over St. Patrick in the 39th District semifinals on Monday at the Maysville-Mason County Recreation Park, while Natalie Bell paced the Lady Bears’ offense with five RBIs.
“I give credit to St. Pat. They play hard. They didn’t think we’d just come in and they were just going to lose. They competed and I give them a lot of credit for that. We did beat them pretty easily early on and they approached the game the way they should,” said Bracken County coach Brad Riley.
Natalie Bell gave Bracken County a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a double to left field that scored Georganna Carpenter and Savannah Engnes.
Two walks and a hit batter from the Lady Bears’ pitcher loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom half of the inning, but Olivia Bell got Libby Gallenstein to pop out to Kelsey Hitch at second base to end the threat with St. Patrick still seeking their first run.
St. Patrick loads the bases in the bottom of the first, but Bracken County gets out of the jam. Lady Bears 2, Lady Saints 0. pic.twitter.com/3aTfQNZpzZ
— Jared MacDonald (@JMacDonaldSport) May 21, 2018
“She seems like she does a lot better under pressure. It seems like sometimes she’s got to go through some walks, get the bases loaded before she actually shows up,” said Riley. “The last time we played Mason County, I pitched Georganna and she walked the first three batters and I switched and Olivia got us out with only giving up one run and then pitched the rest of the game and we won. I’ve got total faith in both pitchers. Sometimes one of them has got it and sometimes they don’t. They rely on each other and they all hit the ball.”
The pitcher for Tuesday’s championship game against Mason County will be a game-time decision, according to Riley.
The Lady Bears blew the game open in the second inning, after coming away with run-rule victories over the Lady Saints in both regular season games. It started when Aleah Cummins scored on a single to lead off the inning, thanks to a couple of St. Patrick errors.
Bracken County would bring 12 more batters to the plate in the frame, which was highlighted by a two-run single from Kaitlyn Wills. Natalie Bell added an RBI in the frame on a single that scored Carpenter and Katelyn Bond singled home a run. Engnes and Natalie Bell both scored in the inning from an error on a ball hit by Cummins in her second at bat of the inning.
“I think we timed up the pitches a little bit,” said Riley. “We were adjusting in the box. Sometimes when the pitcher’s throwing a little bit slower, you want to get up in the box, but it had a big arch on it so we kind of took a step back and made sure it was coming in our hitting zone when we hit it.”
An inside-the-park home run from Carpenter led off the top of the third, making it 10-0, before Natalie Bell drove in her fourth run on a single to center. Bell added the Lady Bears’ third run on a wild pitch.
Olivia Bell’s only blemish came in the bottom of the third. Tori Griffith led off the inning with a walk and scored on an infield single from Caroline McKay.
“These girls improved so much. It seemed like when we went up to Menifee County we kind of gelled as a team and we kind of got close,” said St. Patrick coach Ronnie Clos. “I’m really proud of them.”
Bracken County picked up six more runs in the top of the fourth with the help of two St. Patrick errors, and the Lady Bears were able to hold off the Lady Saints in the bottom half of the inning for the run-rule victory.
St. Patrick ends the season with a 4-14 record. They’ll graduate Griffith and Elizabeth Ignacio from this year’s team, but have the rest of the roster back, including five seventh graders that Clos believes show promise for the future.
“I expect a lot out of them. Seventh graders will be eighth graders next year. I’ve still got my shortstop back – Lizzie McKay. She’s a dandy,” said Clos.
“Tori is a three-year starter. Her determination is great and she’s got a good work ethic,” added Clos. “Elizabeth – she’s just been with the system for two years. She played as a sophomore then sat out and then played again. She was a player that kept everybody going.”
Bracken County advances to Tuesday’s 39th District championship game against Mason County, who beat Augusta in the second semifinal game on Monday. The Lady Bears beat the Lady Royals in 10 innings on May 1, 8-7.
“We’ve struggled a little lately with being ready to play. Sometimes we just go through the motions. Hopefully tomorrow night we don’t just go through the motions because if we go through the motions, we’re not going to win. Mason County’s going to beat us,” said Riley. “If we come and play like we can, it’ll be a good game.”
Tuesday’s championship game is scheduled to start at 6 p.m.
BRACKEN COUNTY— 273-6XX-X—18-13-0
2B- N. Bell (BC)
HR- Carpenter (BC)
LOB- St. Patrick 5, Bracken County 5
WP- O. Bell. LP- Gallenstein.
Records: St. Patrick 4-14, Bracken County 14-8